Washington Secrets

IG: Afghan contractor fraud killing American soldiers

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Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets,The Pentagon,Afghanistan,Inspectors General,Waste and Fraud

Crude construction systems used to prevent deadly IED explosions in Afghanistan that cost taxpayers $32 million don't work or were never installed, possibly resulting in the deaths of unsuspecting American troops, according to a damaging new inspector general's report.

John F. Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction who is fast winning a reputation for being the nation's toughest IG, raised new questions about the safety of the remaining American troops in Afghanistan in his latest report issued Tuesday.

Noting that his team couldn't determine if the anti-IED systems funded by the Pentagon were installed or working, Sopko said he is "looking into whether this apparent failure to perform may have been a factor in the death or injury of several U.S. soldiers."

He added to Secrets: "The loss of life because individuals were not doing their job is horrific and unacceptable. This case shows so clearly that fraud can kill in Afghanistan. We will find out if contracting officers did not do their job and if that proves to be true and Americans have died, we will hold those individuals accountable."

IEDs have been among the most deadly weapons used by terrorists. They are often simple bombs placed in culverts running under roads that explode when a vehicle drives over. The Pentagon since 2009 has spent $32 million to have Afghan firms build cement and Rebar cages to block the placement of IEDs.

Despite that effort, the number of IED attacks in Afghanistan has surged from 9,300 in 2009 to 17,000 last year.

One contractor, said Sopko, received $1 million to build 250 "culvert denial systems," but either never installed them or did a bad job. So far, Sopko's probe has led to an Afghan contractor and subcontractor being arrested and charged with fraud and negligent homicide.

"SIGAR has serious concerns that the lack of contract oversight for culvert denial systems resulted in the U.S. government not getting what it paid for and that the risk to U.S. troops was not adequately mitigated," said the report.

Paul Bedard, The Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at pbedard@washingtonexaminer.com.

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