US efforts to rebuild Afghanistan beset by 'theft and abuse from security forces'

A into US efforts to rebuild Afghanistan’s war-damaged infrastructure has called for urgent action after revealing that Afghan security forces have been harassing, abusing and stealing from contractors at military bases.

Members of the Afghan national defence and security forces (ANDSF) have held workers at gunpoint and confiscated their equipment, costing the US hundreds of thousands of dollars, a US government watchdog said.

The Special Inspector General for Reconstruction (Sigar) reviewed three US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) contracts, collectively valued in excess of $1bn (£755m). Their findings are of concern as the US attempts to manage the cost of restructuring and compensation claims by contractors.

The review found that in one case, Afghan forces – which include the army and police – had “confiscated” more than $780,000 in contractor-owned property, forcing USACE to pay $325,000 in compensation to the firms. In a second case, USACE was unable to reclaim equipment valued at $454,900, for which they have also now received a compensation claim.

The Sigar report detailed contracted staff being subject to assault, unlawful detentions, threats and intimidation.

Between August 2011 and November 2013, USACE identified 296 serious incidents.

There were also instances in which Afghan forces shaved the heads of contractor staff for not complying with their orders to repair equipment outside the scope of the contract.

Sigar’s report made the point that despite the restructuring programme being funded and monitored by the US Senate, there is “no comprehensive mechanism for formal coalition assistance evolved to address abuse and confiscation of property”, or a method to monitor results and feedback.

The US-led multinational force in overall control, the combined security transition command Afghanistan or CSTC-A, said that, in order to address dishonesty and misconduct among the ANDSF, it had taken measures to train staff on both sides. However, it had not fined Afghan security forces for stolen or “confiscated” property or workers’ mistreatment, believing that withholding funds would “harm ANDSF forces more than it would tend to change behaviour”.

The report, published earlier this month, concluded that verbal abuse and harassment of the contractor workforce and the theft of contractors’ equipment by the Afghan forces would be a continuing problem.

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Source : theguardian[dot]com