Al-Qaeda and Taliban supporters have been awarded US military contracts, and American officials have found a reason not to cancel the agreements, according to a Tuesday report from Bloomberg.
That reason: doing so might deprive the supporters of their “due process rights.”
John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, said he was “deeply troubled that the US military can pursue, attack, and even kill terrorists and their supporters, but that some in the US government believe we cannot prevent these same people from receiving a government contract.”
The comments came by way of a letter that accompanied Sopko’s 236-page quarterly report to Congress. According to Sopko, the US Army Suspension and Debarment Office has refused to act in 43 cases.
“There appears to be a growing gap between the policy objectives of Washington and the reality of achieving them in Afghanistan, especially when the government must hire and oversee contractors to perform its mission,” Sopko said. “Unless the U.S. government improves its contract-oversight policies and practices, far too much will be wasted.”
Bloomberg noted that the US currently has 60,000 troops in Afghanistan. That number is expected to fall to 34,000 by February 2014. President Obama has not confirmed the amount of troops he will keep in the country to train Afghan forces and engage in anti-terrorist missions post-2014.
Sopko is not too enthusiastic about the US abilities to maintain oversight. According to the report, his agency found it “impossible to confirm” the total number of contracts that were awarded to Al-Qaeda and Taliban supporters in a $32 million program for installing barricades, bars, or gratings in culverts at close to 2,500 Afghan locations.
The contracts would prevent the placement of roadside bombs, which, Bloomberg pointed out, are the biggest killers of US and Afghan troops.
Sopko believes the plan for creating an effective Afghan Army consisting of more than 185,000 troops “will remain hollow unless Washington pays equal attention to proper contracting and procurement activities to sustain those forces.”
At the end of May, the US had committed $30 billion in contracts to strengthen, train, and sustain Afghanistan’s military.
Sopko’s report noted that as of March, 40,315 personnel working under Pentagon contracts in the country — close to 37 percent — were local to the region. In reference to the 43 cases of contractors with connections to Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, Sopko advised enforcing “the rule of common sense” in its suspension and debarment program.
“They may be enemies of the United States but that is not enough to keep them from getting government contracts,” the report stated.
Sopko’s report also stated that the US Agency for International Development had spent $47 million on a program for Afghanistan’s stabilization, but had not dealt with the reasons for the country’s instability.
In 16 months, the agency has reached none of its essential program objectives and has spent money mostly on “workshops and training sessions,” an audit from Sopko’s agency held. The project should be aimed at strengthening the country’s government before withdrawing US troops next year.
“It’s troubling that after 16 months, this program has not issued its first community grant … Rather, it has spent almost $50 million, about a quarter of the total program budget, on conferences, overhead and workshops,” Sopko said.
Matthew Bourke, a service spokesman for the Army’s procurement-fraud branch issued a release stating that the agency report “did not include enough supporting evidence to initiate suspension and debarment under federal acquisition regulations.”
George Wright, a second Army spokesman, agreed. In an email to Bloomberg, he said that ending contracts based on Sopko’s agency report “would fail to meet due-process requirements and would likely be deemed arbitrary if challenged in court.”
Recent Al-Qaeda activities have indicated that the terrorist cell is alive, well, and much more active than the Obama Administration was selling during the 2012 presidential elections, when it was trying to deflect criticism over the Benghazi attacks.
Most recently, an attack on Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad freed anywhere from 500 to 1,000 militants, who were members of the terrorist organization.
Do you think there is any truth to Sopko’s findings that the US is awarding military contracts to supporters of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda?
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