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12 Apr, 2013 11:53

Billions of US tax dollars potentially funding Afghan terrorism – report

Billions of US tax dollars potentially funding Afghan terrorism – report

Grey areas in US legislation could mean that taxpayer money is financing Afghan terrorism, a report has revealed. It calls on Congress to change the $100,000 threshold on reconstruction contracts to include the 80 percent that evade scrutiny.

The “alarming” findings were greeted with calls for urgent action to mend the weak links in US regulations.

The report, titled ‘Contracting with the Enemy’ and published by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), draws attention to the mismanagement of the Department of Defense’s (DOD) funds.

According to the document, such oversights mean that “millions of contracting dollars could be diverted to forces seeking to harm US Military and civilian personnel and derail the multi-billion dollar reconstruction effort.”

Last year, the US invested around $1.7 million and awarded 9,733 contracts in Afghanistan; it is unclear how much of this may have been diverted to the insurgency.

Criticism in the report focuses on Section 841 of the National Defense Authorization Act 2012 and its ambiguous wording. The legislation allows the DOD to discontinue a contract with a company found to have links to Afghan insurgent groups.

However, blunders in the section’s wording make it likely that US money is slipping through the net and contributing to terrorism.

Firstly and most importantly, Section 841 only applies to contracts over $100,000 which excludes approximately 80 percent of Afghan contractors. Secondly, the report found that many of the contractors are not made aware of their legal obligation to avoid companies with insurgent links.

Furthermore, information on companies that have been blacklisted under Section 841 is not properly disseminated by the DOD: “CENTCOM [Central Command] began posting Section 841 designations on its public website in January 2013; however, contracting officers and prime contractors are not required to regularly review the information,” the report explained.

Finally, Section 841 will expire when US forces pull out in 2014, increasing the danger of funds being funneled to extremist groups.

“SIGAR currently has 73 open recommendations. If all of them were accepted, the U.S. government could potentially save about $450 million,” said John Spoko, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction to press. He went on to say that the US government had failed to implement an anti-corruption plan that had been previously put forward.

“More than two years ago, SIGAR recommended that the United States develop an integrated anti-corruption strategy. Although the U.S. Embassy in Kabul produced a draft strategy, it was not adopted,” he said.\

This is not the first time the US has come under fire for its mismanagement of funds in Afghanistan. In July of last year, SIGAR warned that many of the reconstruction projects that the US had invested in were behind schedule, and would not be finished before the full troop withdrawal in 2014. SIGAR said the “expectations gap” caused by the unfinished projects could impair stabilization efforts.

Meanwhile, as the deadline for the US withdrawal closes, there is little evidence to suggest Afghanistan will be in stable condition when the US leaves. A coordinated insurgent attack on April 3 killed 34 civilians and 10 security force members in the most deadly attack in over a year.