Pentagon’s use of taxpayers’ money under scrutiny after special watchdog finds contracts to train and mentor Afghan soldiers fell short of stated objectives
A $457m (£345m) Pentagon-funded programme to develop the intelligence capacity of Afghan defence and security forces has failed to meet its aims, according to a US watchdog.
The claim comes weeks after a scathing report found the US government had wasted $28m on Afghan uniforms with “forest” camouflaged patterns rather than the desert pattern better suited to 98% of the country’s terrain.
The report, by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (Sigar) said there was “no indication of improvement in overall intelligence operations” as a result of five contracts for training and mentoring, worth hundreds of millions of dollars, run by Legacy Afghanistan R&D and Afghanistan Source Operations Management (Asom). Only 47% of intelligence sites are ready to transfer to the Afghan government.
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The watchdog’s audit of training and mentoring contracts awarded to the Afghanistan national defence and security forces (ANDSF) between 2010 and 2013 said it was “almost impossible” to gauge the US government’s return on investment. This was due to a lack of performance metrics to track progress, said the report. Sigar found that neither Imperatis, the contractor, nor New Century Consulting, the subcontractor operating the programme, retained complete training records.
The watchdog also noted that Imperatis billed, on average, more than $1.8m a month under the Legacy contract for the period from March to December 2011, even though the training courses were cancelled in February 2011.
Using the records available, Sigar concluded that a “significant portion” of Afghan trainers and instructors failed to meet the minimum standards. Only 10 of the 24 police intelligence student trainees completed all nine courses required to be an interior ministry trainer; none of the four student trainees completed all six courses required to be a defence ministry trainer; and five out of six did not complete any of the four courses required to be a defence instructor.
The US Department of Defense had also met costs it was “not legally responsible to pay” as a result of failed monitoring by Imperatis, the report said.
Sigar’s January 2016 quarterly report to Congress, based on Afghan assessments, found defence and interior ministry intelligence capabilities were rated as high as “partially capable” but none as “fully operational”.
It recommended the US defence secretary conduct a review both of the award and oversight of the Legacy and Asom contracts, and of the ongoing ANDSF intelligence training and mentoring contracts, in order that they be better monitored.
Sigar has long criticised the Pentagon for wastefulness during the US’s longest war. In January, it told a Washington thinktank there was evidence that Taliban leaders had told their commanders to buy fuel, ammunition and weapons from Afghan soldiers because it was cheaper.
The office of the undersecretary of defence for policy, which was given a draft of the report, said it concurred with both Sigar’s recommendations.
A Department of Defense report, which followed the conclusion of Legacy and Asom contracts, noted that persistent capability gaps in the Afghan security forces’ intelligence collection and dissemination, along with other shortcomings, “have hampered more rapid development in their ability to maintain security and stability”.
In June, Donald Trump gave the Pentagon complete authority to set troop levels in Afghanistan, after his defence secretary, James Mattis, suggested the war was being lost.
Wednesday 2 August 2017 14.03 BST Last modified on Wednesday 2 August 2017 14.11 BST
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