Kabul, Afghanistan The NATO command has issued new guidelines for awarding billions of dollars worth of international contracts in Afghanistan, saying that without proper oversight the money could end up in the hands of insurgents and criminals, deepen corruption and undermine efforts to win the loyalty of the Afghan people at a critical juncture in the war.
The guidance, issued last week by Gen. David Petraeus and obtained Sunday by The Associated Press, was issued in response to concern that the military’s own contracting procedures could be, in some cases, running counter to efforts on the battlefield.
The changes are aimed, in large part, at addressing complaints that ordinary Afghans have seen little change in their daily lives despite billions poured into their country since 2001.
“With proper oversight, contracting can spur economic development and support the Afghan government and NATO’s campaign objectives,” Petraeus wrote in a two-page memorandum. “If, however, we spend large quantities of international contracting funds quickly and with insufficient oversight, it is likely that some of those funds will unintentionally fuel corruption, finance insurgent organizations, strengthen criminal patronage networks and undermine our efforts in Afghanistan.”
Private contractors, both Afghans and foreigners, provide a range of services to U.S. and NATO forces, including transportation, security, running dining facilities and sanitation at military bases, training and construction.
Precise figures on the amount of money paid to contractors were unavailable, though most estimates put the figure at about $14 billion a year. Admiral Kathleen Dussault, head of the Joint Contracting Command, was quoted as recently as July saying that the amount of money being spent in Afghanistan had tripled since 2008.
But President Hamid Karzai has criticized the contracting process, saying that Afghans have not reaped the full benefits because so much of the money goes to high-priced contractors and others.