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Afghanistan

Significant rise in civilian casualties in Afghanistan – SIGAR quarterly report

The US Special Investigator General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), in its latest quarterly report, has revealed that the country has seen a significant rise in civilian casualties. The report also revealed that the Afghan economy also shrunk overall by 0.2% in 2018.

The major highlights of the report can be found below:

Heavy Fighting Results in High Civilian and Combat Casualties

• The elite Afghan Special Security Forces conducted more operations against the Taliban and other insurgents in January–September 2019 than in all of 2018.

• U.S. and Coalition air missions released more munitions in Afghanistan in September 2019 than in any month since October 2010.

• The Taliban increased both its overall and “effective” (casualty-producing) attacks against the ANDSF and Coalition this quarter.

• Both Resolute Support (RS) and the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) recorded significant increases in civilian casualties this summer compared to last summer

The Afghan Economy Contracts

• Afghanistan’s gross domestic product contracted by 0.2% in 2018, including opium-poppy cultivation, according to the country’s statistical authority.

• Afghan government revenues grew by just 3.2% over the first eight months of FY 1398 (December 22, 2018–December 21, 2019), year-on-year.

• An additional $5.2 billion in economic and social development funds may be required to sustain a potential Afghan political settlement, the World Bank said in a draft plan.

Audits and Inspections

This quarter, SIGAR issued two performance audits, six financial audits, and three inspection reports.

The performance audit reports examined:

• the effectiveness of USAID’s implementation and oversight of the $861.7 million Power Transmission Expansion and Connectivity (PTEC) project from August 2011 through March 2019

• the impact of the more than $90 million spent by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) on a personal services contract with Versar Inc. to hire Afghan engineers and specialists to help oversee construction projects.

The six financial audit reports identified $498,840 in questioned costs as a result of internal-control deficiencies and noncompliance issues

The inspection reports found:

• construction deficiencies, contractor noncompliance, and poor oversight at the $39.5 million Pul-e Alam power substation in the North East Power System, including increased safety risks to residents living near transmission lines

• safety hazards and maintenance issues at the Afghan National Army Garrison at South Kabul International Airport, including elevated manholes that could damage vehicles driving over them

• five construction deficiencies posing safety hazards to motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists on the Ghulam Khan road project

Special Projects

This quarter, SIGAR’s Office of Special Projects issued an inquiry letter concerning equipment acquisitions, in addition to two reviews concerning:

• textbooks and materials distributed to primary schools through USAID’s Afghan Children Read (ACR) program

• observations from SIGAR site visits to 171 USAID-funded Afghan schools across 10 provinces

Lessons Learned

SIGAR’s Lessons Learned Program released its seventh lessons-learned report, Reintegration of Ex-Combatants: Lessons from the U.S. Experience in Afghanistan. The report examines and assesses the five main post-2001 reintegration efforts in Afghanistan. It also examines several past local security agreements for efforts on reintegration. The report found that none of the reintegration programs enabled any significant number of ex-combatants to socially and economically rejoin civil society. Programs targeting Taliban insurgents did not substantially weaken the insurgency or contribute meaningfully to parallel reconciliation efforts.

The Lessons Learned Program has four projects in development: U.S. government support to elections; monitoring and evaluation of reconstruction contracting; advancing and empowering women and girls; and police and corrections.

Investigations

During the reporting period, SIGAR investigations resulted in six sentencings, 120 months’ prison time, 240 months’ supervised probation, and a combined total of $18.1 million in criminal forfeitures and restitutions. In addition, one criminal information and two indictments were obtained. SIGAR initiated nine new cases and closed 17, bringing the total number of ongoing investigations to 158. SIGAR’s suspension and debarment program referred two individuals for suspension or debarment based on evidence from investigations conducted by SIGAR in Afghanistan and the United States.

Investigations highlights include:

• The former owner of a now-defunct marble mining company in Afghanistan, Adam Doost, was sentenced to 54 months’ imprisonment, 36 months’ supervised probation, and 250 hours’ community service. He was further ordered to forfeit $8,940,742 and pay $8,940,742 in restitution. Doost was found guilty in September 2018 for his role in defrauding the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) and defaulting on a $15.8 million loan from OPIC.

• A former U.S. Army Special Forces member, Joseph Russell Graff, was sentenced to 52 months’ imprisonment and three years’ supervised probation, in addition to $150,000 forfeiture from the proceeds of the sale of a house he purchased with questionable funds. Graff smuggled illegally obtained weapons from Afghanistan during his 2012–2013 military deployment, and smuggled an additional estimated $350,000 in illegal proceeds.

• A former CEO of two U.S. government contractors, James O’Brien, was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment, four months’ home confinement, and three years’ supervised release. O’Brien pleaded guilty in June 2019 for making false statements that increased his companies’ competitiveness.

The full report can be found here

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