Steven J. Trent, the acting Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), said in a letter to the U.S. Agency for International Development that the “rushed approach” the U.S. government was taking to comply with new Afghan government rules for private security raised concerns that warrant immediate attention.
The auditor’s analysis found that the cost of Afghan guards that provide security for U.S.-funded projects could increase by as much as 46 percent. Trent also wrote that if the Afghan Public Protection Force, or APPF, was not “fully-functioning” by the March 20 deadline to disband private security companies, USAID projects worth $899 million were at “significant risk of termination.”
In an unusually sharp rebuttal to the auditor’s findings, S. Ken Yamashita, USAID’s mission director in Kabul, said the agency rejected the report “in its entirety.” He challenged SIGAR’s methodology, saying it relied on “inadequate comparisons, speculative assumptions and inaccurate statements.”
The conflicting assessments of the transition to Afghan-run security, and interviews with people who have followed the issue closely, underscored how much anxiety the changeover is causing at a pivotal time in the Afghan conflict. The extent to which U.S. development projects succeed over the next two years will shape the legacy of a decade-long foreign military intervention that has been beset by a series of missteps and growing disapproval for the war among Americans.
The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is scheduled to hold a hearing on the security transition on Thursday.
The Afghan government has failed to build the 25,000-guard force it set out to recruit a year ago to comply with President Hamid Karzai’s mandate to disband security companies, which he saw as an affront to Afghan sovereignty. It currently has roughly 6,000 guards on staff, but most of those are already assigned to sensitive installations, such as banks.
At least 32 projects funded by USAID have agreed to adopt the APPF model, although some have said the move could significantly imperil their ability to operate safely in Afghanistan, U.S. embassy officials in Kabul said. Because the Afghan government is not yet in a position to assign trained guards to new sites, for the time being, most project managers are keeping their own guards.
The American University of Afghanistan, which is among the entities that receives U.S. funding and is adopting the new security system, said in a letter to its staff this month that it anticipates its security apparatus will remain relatively intact.