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U.S. set to award $1 million contract to expand the market for Afghan carpets

The war in Afghanistan began on Oct. 7, 2001, as the U.S. military launched an operation in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the U.S. The war continues today.

The Obama administration also is pouring aid into Pakistan, but defense officials insisted that the new effort will not adversely affect Pakistan's troubled economy.

Nadeem Kiani, a spokesman for the Pakistani Embassy, also said officials in Islamabad were not worried that the project would hurt the Pakistani carpet trade. "Afghanistan is a neighboring country, and we would like to have a good business relationship with them," he said.

Defense officials were so impressed by Ringrose's expertise that they essentially designed the contract to match his qualifications. The requirements include a minimum of 20 years of hands-on experience in the washing and finishing of hand-knotted carpets, 30 years' experience in carpet management production, carpet experience in post-conflict regions, a minimum of 50 business relationships with high-end retailers in Europe and North America -- and conversance in French, German and Turkish.

Michael Scanlan, who spent 35 years trading antiquities and carpets in Afghanistan, noted that the requirements did not include knowledge of Afghan languages. "They know their stuff on the outside of Afghanistan," he said. "But how much do they know about Afghanistan? You've got to work with the people."

Two other companies briefly indicated interest in the contract but never applied, leaving Ringrose's company as the sole applicant. The notice of intent for the contract suggested the value of the contract might be $7 million, but officials said that was "boilerplate language" regarding the size of the company. Officials said the contract's actual value, once awarded, will be about $1 million, much of it to provide security.

"There is a very, very small group of true experts in the hand-knotted industry," the defense official said. "We raised the bar to reflect the expertise you need to overhaul an industry."

Staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.

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