Afghan forces likely won’t be ready when U.S. troops leave

Afghan National Army Lt. Col. Abdul Wakil Warzejy, left, gives orders on his radio at his base in Logar province. Afghan National Army Lt. Col. Abdul Wakil Warzejy, left, gives orders on his radio at his base in Logar province. Anja Niedringhaus/AP

The Afghan National Security Forces slated to assume control after U.S. troops withdraw “will likely be incapable of fully sustaining” facilities in Afghanistan after the scheduled 2014 transition, an inspector general audit found.

The Afghan government’s readiness to assume operations and maintenance responsibilities is beset by “a lack of sufficient numbers and quality of personnel, as well as undeveloped budgeting, procurement and logistics systems,” John Sopko, special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, wrote in a report released Wednesday.

In addition, two key contracts that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awarded to ITT Excelis Systems Corp. to improve 480 facilities in Afghanistan, though effectively administered thus far, are set to run out of money 15 months short of its period of full performance.

As of June 1, SIGAR found that the Afghan government had filled less than 40 percent of authorized operations and maintenance positions. Obstacles to recruiting, according to U.S. officials, include salary gaps between these government positions and private sector jobs, such as contract positions.

The Afghan Army and police lack personnel with the technical skills to operate and maintain critical facilities, such as water supply, waste water treatment and power generation, auditors found.

“The Ministry of Defense’s procurement process is unable to provide the Afghan army with [operations and maintenance] supplies in a timely manner,” the report said. As of Aug. 1, 25 sites had started the transition process, but the Corps of Engineers had not yet developed a plan or procedures.

The task is not small. One facility alone, the report noted, could consist of as many as 150 buildings and structures, including barracks, latrines, a dining facility, guard towers, a power plant, administration buildings and warehouses.

The Corps of Engineers reviewed a draft of the report and generally agreed with recommendations that it monitor Exelis and its partner contractor, Contrack International Inc., to assure that vacancies are filled and the quality of facilities is maintained.

SIGAR on Thursday released its quarterly report on audits, inspections and investigations reviewing previously reported problems with the transition in Afghanistan. These included accountability for getting fuel to troops, threats to U.S. forces posed by improvised explosive devices and contractor misconduct.

“We referred 60 individuals and companies to implementing agencies for suspension or debarment, bringing the total number of referrals since we began this program two years ago to 206,” the report said. “These referrals included 43 individuals and companies identified as having actively supported insurgent groups, such as the Haqqani Network opposing U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan.” SIGAR’s referrals, it said, have resulted in 41 suspensions; 85 proposals for debarment; and 46 finalized debarments of individuals and companies involved in waste, fraud and abuse related to U.S.-funded reconstruction projects.

SIGAR currently is seeking the independent authority to suspend and debar contractors for misconduct.

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This story was updated to restore a dropped number in the penultimate paragraph. 

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