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U.S. officials failed to verify that fuel for Afghan forces did not come from Iran, report says

American officials in Afghanistan have failed to verify that fuel purchased for Afghan security forces in recent years did not come from Iran, which would constitute a violation of U.S. sanctions, according to an inspector general report issued Wednesday.

The report warned that “it will become more difficult” to make sure assistance to Afghanistan complies with sanctions on Iran as the U.S. military footprint in the country continues to shrink over the next two years. The United States intends to start giving a fuel stipend for Afghan forces to the Afghan Ministry of Defense in March, rather than directly supplying units in the field.

“Our report again demonstrates the critical importance that oversight plays in the contracting process,” Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John F. Sopko said in a statement. “It is essential that the Department of Defense continues to implement strict controls over the fuel supply process to ensure taxpayer funds are not used in violation of Iranian sanctions.”

Between 2007 and 2012, the report said, the U.S. government did not have a reliable way of verifying that its Afghan providers were not buying from Iran as they supplied fuel worth nearly $1.1 billion to the Afghan army. The Pentagon asked Congress for $323 million for fuel purchases for Afghan security forces during 2013. U.S. military officials estimate that the Afghan army will need $2.8 billion to keep its security vehicles running between 2014 and 2018.

Afghanistan imports most of its oil from Russia, Turkmenistan and Iran. Investigators from the inspector general office, known as SIGAR, found that some fuel imported from other neighbors may have been blended with Iranian petrol.

The report of a possible violation of Iran sanctions is the latest critical review of the U.S. military’s fuel procurement for Afghans. SIGAR and other U.S. agencies have said the military does not have enough safeguards to ensure that the fuel it provides to local security forces is not siphoned off.

In response to a draft of the report, the training command said it is taking numerous steps to enhance accountability in its fuel procurement system, including a new requirement that vendors must agree not to buy Iranian fuel.

The United States bars American companies from doing business with Iran and prohibits spending U.S. taxpayer funds on Iranian products. The measure is designed to cut off the Islamic republic from the global economy, a pressure tactic to persuade Tehran to abandon its nuclear ambitions.

Iran is the third-largest exporter of crude in the world, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

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