USAID Withdraws Request for 'Attractive' Images of Work in Afghanistan

A solider stands guard near a military aircraft in Kandahar, Afghanistan. A solider stands guard near a military aircraft in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Mark Wilson/AP

The U.S. Agency for International Development—which has faced accusations of mismanagement and waste with its funding in Afghanistan—recently canceled a contract for "attractive visual images" about its work in the war-torn country.

The request—which the agency posted Monday—has since been taken off USAID's website. The agency had called for "timely, attractive visual images," noting that in Afghanistan "negative images flood both social and conventional media with little counter," according to a cached Web page of the request.

The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction sorts through the more than $100 billion in funding the United States has allocated to reconstruction and relief efforts in the country. According to an audit released last month, USAID agreed to give direct assistance to seven Afghan ministries despite determining that "it could not rely on the ministries it assessed to manage donor funds without a host of mitigation measures in place."

Donald Sampler Jr., USAID's assistant to the administrator for the Office of Afghanistan and Pakistan Affairs, said Monday that while the media provides an accurate—but limited—view of USAID's work in the country, he expects "the reporting will continue to be somewhat negative."

His comments echo the agency's request for the photography proposals, which notes that "the overwhelming majority of pictures recording that effort are negative and at least to some extent misleading."

The Web page doesn't note how much an individual would be paid for the photographs.

A spokesman for USAID told USA Today that the photographs are supposed to "help inform Afghans about the assistance American taxpayers are providing," but acknowledged that "the wording of the [request] did not appropriately articulate that purpose and is being reevaluated."

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