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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Wasting Money In Afghanistan -- Making Literate Terrorists In a Narco-Criminal State

"The U.S. government has committed $200 million to a program teaching Afghan soldiers to read -- but a new report 
shows more than half of them still may be illiterate."

(Judson Berger. "Afghan soldiers still can't read, despite $200M US-backed program, report finds." Fox News. January 28, 2014)

John F. Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), says the program dates back to 2010. Poor tracking of recruits, inconsistent instruction and other factors have left military leaders unable to say how many soldiers can actually read and write, according to the study.

Sopko said  that  literacy of the Afghan National Security Forces is critically a statement. "We've spent $200 million on this -- yet we don't even know how many Afghan security forces are literate or how well the program worked. That's deeply disturbing."

The program's original goal was for 100 percent of Afghan National Security Forces to achieve what's called Level 1 literacy (equivalent to first-grade proficiency), and half to attain Level 3 literacy (equivalent to third-grade proficiency).

Military leaders initially reported that the program would meet its goals by the end of 2014. But the new report cast doubt on those claims, saying "several" officials told the inspector general's office that achieving that goal may be "unrealistic" and "unattainable."

Further, the report claimed officials said "that over half of the force was still illiterate as of February 2013," a level likely to stay constant through the end of the decade. Reconstruction estimates found that 64% had first-grade ability and 21% were at the third-grade level. The police and army have about 352,000 personnel.

Other key findings include the following:

• Between July 2012 and February 2013, 45% of Afghan national police were deployed without any literacy training.

• Attrition rates of 30% to 50% mean that it is unlikely that the personnel who passed literacy tests are still serving.

Believe it or not, SIGAR is the U.S. government’s leading agency on Afghanistan reconstruction "committed to uncovering fraud, waste and abuse – and to providing policymakers with the independent analysis they need to make informed decisions on one of the complex foreign policy issues facing the United States." Yes, such an organization does exist.

It is reported that all SIGAR audits are performed in compliance with Generally Accepted Government Auditing Standards (GAGAS), established by the Comptroller General of the United States.

According to New York Times reporter Matthew Rosenberg, Sopko has made a full-time job of "embarrassing people." Sopko, a 61-year-old former prosecutor believes that strategy works. He and his team spend their days cataloging the waste, mismanagement and fraud that have plagued American reconstruction projects in Afghanistan. 

Then they go out and publicize what they have found — aggressively. If they upset the generals and diplomats running the war, so much the better. Sopko says, “I’m into accountability.” His take-no-prisoners approach has alienated many officials whose work he scrutinizes. Sopko and his team have done work that has felt like salt in the wounds for some officials in Afghanistan.

Rosenberg believes "Sopko has been as instrumental as anyone in shaping the now-prevalent view among Americans that the war in Afghanistan has become an expensive boondoggle no longer worth fighting." 

(Matthew Rosenberg. "To American Watchdog on Afghan Reconstruction, 
Bluntness Is a Weapon." The New York Times. August 8, 2013) 

Since 2002, Congress has appropriated more than $95 billion for Afghanistan reconstruction.

 John F. Sopko

What other misbehavior has been uncovered by SIGAR?

1. Contracts For Terrorists

In a recent quarterly report to Congress in August, 2013, Sopko expressed deep concerns over the U.S. Army’s refusal to suspend its contracts with 43 companies suspected of supporting terrorist activities.

“I am deeply troubled that the U.S. military can pursue, attack and even kill terrorists and their supporters, but that some in the U.S. government believe we cannot prevent these same people from receiving a government contract,” Sopko wrote in his report.

The SIGAR office had brought the 43 companies, most of them Afghani, to the Army’s attention and suggested that their contracts be brought under suspension or debarment. The information supplied by SIGAR allegedly pointed to connections between the companies and the Taliban, al Qaeda, and the Haqqani network.

“The Army Suspension and Debarment Office appears to believe that suspension or debarment of these individuals and companies would be a violation of their due process rights if based on classified information or if based on findings by the Department of Commerce,” the report said.

What was done? The Army Procurement Fraud Branch did review the 43 recommendations, but the report did not include enough supporting evidence to initiate suspention and debarment under Federal Acquisition Regulations.

2. Hectares of Heroin

There is a shocking report about heroin grown in Afghanistan. In testimony before the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control in January, 2014, Sopko warned that Afghanistan could degenerate into a narco-criminal state.

The special inspector general complains that counternarcotics has been a low priority for both the U.S. and Afghan governments and that robust law enforcement is needed. 

According to Sopko, despite a $7 billion effort to eradicate opium production in Afghanistan, poppy cultivation there is at its highest level since the U.S. invasion more than a decade ago, sparking corruption, criminal gangs and providing the insurgency with hard cash.

"The situation in Afghanistan is dire with little prospect for improvement in 2014 or beyond," Sopko says. "Afghan farmers are growing more opium poppies today than at any time in their modern history." In fact, a United Nations report said about 209,000 hectares (515,000 acres) of land was being used to cultivate poppies last year — with the highest concentration in southern Helmand province. That compares with just 8,000 hectares in 2001 and 74,000 in 2002, when U.S.-led international forces toppled the Taliban. 

The value of the heroin produced is worth $3 billion annually, or roughly 15 percent of Afghanistan's gross domestic product. As much as 90 percent of the world's heroin is produced there, and, of course, it reaches the United States and Canada.

"It is widely thought that every drug organization supports or works with insurgents in Afghanistan," Sopko says. "I have been told that these same groups are closely linked with corrupt government officials."

(Scott Neuman. "U.S. Official: Afghanistan Could Become 'Narco-Criminal State.'" 
 National Public Radio. January 15, 2014)

3. Empty Police Facilities

According to a 2013 report by Sopko, inspectors found a nearly deserted compound at the large new Imam Sahib Border Police Company headquarters in Afghanistan’s Kunduz province. All but three of the 12 buildings were locked, and no one had keys.

The findings echoed those in a July 2012 inspection of four other Afghan Border Police facilities in Nangarhar Province, bordering Pakistan, where many buildings were empty or used for something other than what they were designed for – one structure housing a well doubled as a chicken coop. “It is difficult to consider a project as wanted and needed if its intended recipients are not using it or are using it for an unplanned purpose,” the report noted.

The Imam Sahib facility, completed two months earlier at a cost to the United States of $7.3 million, was designed to provide a base for 175 border police to help provide security along Afghanistan’s rugged frontier with Tajikistan, an infiltration route for militants and perhaps the most important transit corridor for Afghan heroin headed to Russia.

In addition to the deserted border control post, SIGAR auditors discovered that the sprawling $17.7 million Kunduz police headquarters, a collection of 37 separate buildings located in the heart of the busy provincial capital, included poor welding, unstable soils, and collapsing buildings.

SIGAR also noted that the headquarters wasn’t prepared to handle the 625 or so police officials expected to work and, in some cases, live there. The compound, the report said, has a single diesel generator to provide power, and the base is not connected to the local electrical grid. Neither were there plans to train Afghans to maintain the equipment. The SIGAR report said that because of these and the project’s other problems, the U.S. investment in the compound “may be at risk.”

(Douglas Birch. "More waste found in Afghanistan as US heads for the exit." 
The Center for Public Integrity. January 31, 2013)

The costs of a war involve atrocious waste -- loss of life, loss of limb, and loss of taxpayer money. Afghanistan is destined to be whatever it was before we arrived. Despite the American government's commitment to instilling so-called "freedom" there, the Afghans will continue to be "Afghans" if and when we ever leave. Call terrorism by any other name and still this aggressive rape of the citizen's pocketbook is personal, political violence imposed by the United States elite.

Yes, we are being terrorized by our own officials. Teach Afghans English, rebuild their country, push them toward a police state -- why? It is evident. Big business, big politics, and big government equate to lining the pockets of those "on the take" with public funds. War is big business and big money -- just the preferred fare of voracious, greedy people "at the top." 

Imagine wasteful foreign spending instead being used to help Americans at home. Blood money runs deep overseas -- it is tied with oil, drugs, and temporary promises of peace. Instead, it could be used to infuse new lifeblood in the future of the country. I worry less about the foreign terrorist in Afghanistan than I do about the native terrorists in Washington.


Coalition Military Fatalities By Year

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