SIGAR’s (Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction) latest report has revealed frequent cases of robbery and abuse by members of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) against native Afghan personnel hired under three U.S. maintenance and operations contracts at ANDSF military bases during the period of its investigation. Of the three contracts, worth the combined value of around $1.14 billion, two ran from 2010 to 2015 and a third that ran from 2015 to March 2019.
In a review of these U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) operations and maintenance (O&M) contracts, the US watchdog on Afghanistan found that ANDSF personnel had confiscated a total of $780,000 in contractor-owned property and equipment, and often mistreated and detained workers at gunpoint. Confiscated equipment included tools, such as drills, oxygen regulators, welding machines, saws, as well as office supplies including computers, a printer, an air conditioner, and refrigerators, among other things.
The salient findings from the report are as follow:
– Members of the ANDSF mistreated or abused contractor staff, and reportedly detained staff against their will and threatened or intimidated them into completing work that was outside of the scope of the O&M contract requirements.
– A representative from one of the O&M contractors reported that their staff, all of whom are local Afghans, have been held against their will at gunpoint and locked in containers for extended hours when attempting to remove contract-owned equipment from O&M sites. The representative reported that staff found it extremely difficult to remove contractor-owned property, and in most cases, significant company property was not permitted to leave the site.
– Between August 2011 and November 2013, USACE identified 296 serious incident reports (SIRs). Of this total, 71 regarded abuses, threat, intimidation, and confiscated property.
– The USACE has paid over $325,000 to compensate one contractor for property that they could not recover. USACE was unable to reclaim a second contractor’s property in the amount of $454,900, but has yet to review and settle the contractor’s request to compensate.
– USACE officials told us that contractor staff were often detained by the ANDSF as a way to force them to repair equipment that was outside the scope of contract requirements, with their release dependent upon them fixing the equipment, including instances in which the ANDSF shaved the heads of contractor staff for not complying with ANDSF order to repair equipment outside the scope of the contract.
– According to USACE, ANDSF personnel confiscated this equipment despite the provision of approximately $1,302,800 in excess spare parts and equipment provided to the ANDSF to supports its O&M efforts for two of the completed contracts.
– USACE reported that it has addressed complaints of mistreatment and equipment theft, but it does not have an official system of record to track actions take to resolve SIRs. One contractor reported “no comprehensive mechanism for formal Coalition assistance evolved to address abuse and confiscation of property” and that they never received any feedback on, or acknowledgment of, the SIRs it submitted.
– CSTC-A has not issued any financial penalties against the ANDSF for stolen property or contractor mistreatment, reporting that it has not done so because withholding funds “harms ANDSF forces more than it would tend to change behavior” of these bad actors.
– The theft of contractor-owned property and verbal abuse and harassment of contractor staff by the ANDSF is still occurring despite actions taken by USACE and CSTC-A to address these issues. Since the national maintenance contract is ongoing, it is possible that additional equipment may have been confiscated, resulting in further costs to the U.S. government.