Afghan Called Ill-Prepared to Maintain Bases on Their Own

The Afghan government probably will prove incapable of operating and maintaining U.S.-funded army and police facilities when coalition combat troops leave in 2014, a U.S. government watchdog said.

The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction also found that the U.S. contractor currently keeping up the properties, ITT Exelis Inc. (XLS), is likely to run out of funding for one of its two contracts in March 2014, 16 months before it is set to expire.

The inspector general’s report issued yesterday adds to evidence of the difficulties that may confront Afghanistan’s government, which is struggling to fight the Taliban and is plagued by corruption, when most of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s forces depart.

“The Afghan government continues to face challenges that will likely prevent it from fully sustaining ANSF facilities after the 2014 transition,” wrote John Sopko, the special inspector general, referring to the Afghan National Security Forces.

The U.S. has spent $52.15 billion since fiscal 2002 to equip and train Afghan forces, including $11.7 billion for construction of facilities from military bases and hospitals to police stations, the report said.

The Afghan government may not be able to sustain those installations on its own, “thus risking that U.S. investment will not be sustained after an expected significant decrease in international support after 2014,” the report said.

Lacking Skills

The Afghan government filled less than 40 percent of authorized operations and maintenance positions, mostly because of “salary discrepancies” between those and private-sector jobs, the report said.

The Afghan security forces lack “personnel with the technical skills required to operate and maintain critical facilities, such as water supply, waste water treatment, and power generation,” the report said.

Since 2010, that work has been handled by ITT Exelis, which was awarded two multi-year contracts, covering the north and south of the country. The agreements are valued at a combined $800 million and may cover more than 800 facilities, according to the report.

While the McLean, Virginia-based company has met the terms of its contract, “Exelis had difficulty mobilizing during the initial phase of the contract, slowing contract implementation,” the report found.

Beyond Control

Much of the initial slow pace was due to matters beyond the contractor’s control, such as harassment of personnel, poor construction quality and irregular fuel delivers, the report said.

David Albritton, an ITT Exelis spokesman, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mailed message requesting comment.

The inspector general recommended that the Army Corps of Engineers adopt standardized procedures for overseeing the contracts and direct ITT Exelis to fully implement its quality- control program in the southern part of the country, where the report said oversight is lacking.

The Army Corps, in written comments accompanying the report, said it agreed with the recommendations and is taking steps to address them. The service will have to award a new contract when funding on the existing one for the northern part of the country runs out, according to the report.

To contact the reporter on this story: David Lerman in Washington at dlerman1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Walcott at jwalcott9@bloomberg.net

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