Watchdog alerts troops in Afghanistan to new IED dangers

Marines carry a colleague wounded by an IED in Afghanistan in 2011. Marines carry a colleague wounded by an IED in Afghanistan in 2011. Kevin Frayer/AP file photo

A watchdog has warned U.S. troops and commanders in Afghanistan of a heightened threat of attacks using improvised explosive devices as a result of inaccurate inspection reports by Afghan contractors.

In an Oct. 10 safety alert sent to top Marine generals James Mattis and John Allen, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John Sopko warned of a threat to U.S. forces from the lack of culvert denial systems on a major highway in Afghanistan. The systems, designed to prevent access to roadways by insurgents seeking to plant IEDs, are being installed and inspected by local contractors.

But after finding “potentially significant contract fraud” during an investigation, SIGAR estimated that “a large number of culvert denial systems might have been falsely reported as complete by Afghan contractors when, in fact, the denial systems were not installed or were installed improperly, rendering them ineffective and susceptible to compromise by insurgents seeking to emplace IEDs.”

The findings on one major highway could mean similar threats on roads around the country, Sopko wrote. SIGAR employees have briefed U.S. commanders in the capital city of Kabul and requested widespread dissemination of the alert.

“The case is an outstanding example of the benefits of cooperation between the military and SIGAR and may result in the saving of lives,” Sopko wrote.

Asked whether specific U.S. contractors may be involved in supervising the Afghans, Philip LaVelle, SIGAR’s director of public affairs, declined comment, citing an ongoing criminal investigation.

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