WASHINGTON - Afghan police are widely considered corrupt, unable to shoot straight, and die at twice the rate of Afghan soldiers and NATO troops. After seven billion dollars spent on training and salaries in the last eight years, several U.S. government investigations are asking why.
Some answers are obvious: Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries of the world, with extremely low literacy and a serious drug problem. One in five police recruits test positive for drugs and fewer than one in 10 can read and write. Unofficial estimates suggest that the Taliban pays twice as much as the government, luring away many candidates from law enforcement careers.
But another rather surprising answer was offered in a little-noticed report published earlier this month after a high-level investigation by two major U.S. government agencies.
The report - titled "DOD Obligations and Expenditures of Funds Provided to the Department of State for the Training and Mentoring of the Afghan National Police" (.pdf) - says that the U.S. State Department has completely failed to do any serious oversight of the private contractors to whom they paid 1.6 billion dollars to provide police training at dozens of sites around Afghanistan.
DynCorp's International Police Training Program, run out of Fort Worth, Texas, has won the bulk of the contracts that have been overseen by the State Department's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL). The company, which has annual revenues of 3.1 billion dollars, has followed a series of wars to run lucrative police training contracts from Bosnia in the 1990s to Iraq in 2003.
DynCorp's work with Kabul began in 2003, almost two years after the fall of the Taliban. It was expanded in 2004 when the State Department issued it a contract to build seven regional training centers, and provide 30 police advisers across Afghanistan.
This initial contract was replaced by a series of related contracts beginning on Aug. 15, 2005, under which DynCorp today employs some 782 retired U.S. police officers and an additional 1,500 support staff. The contracts expired Jan. 31, 2010 but have temporarily been extended till the end of March.
The cost of hiring contractors to train police is high: Each expatriate police officer makes six-figure U.S. salaries - at least 50 times more than an Afghan police officer. Many experts, including the authors of this new report, have questioned the utility of sending police officers - many from small towns in the U.S. - to teach handcuffing and traffic rules to recruits caught in a war zone.
"The DOS (State Department) Civilian Police Program contract does not meet DOD (Pentagon)'s needs in developing the ANP (Afghan National Police) to provide security in countering the growing insurgency in Afghanistan," says the report signed by Pentagon Deputy Inspector General Mary L. Ugone and State Department Assistant Inspector General for the Middle East Richard "Nick" Arntson.
The report concludes that the State department-led training "hampers the ability of DOD to fulfill its role in the emerging national strategy."
The inspectors general have a long list of complaints.
- State Department officials take as long as six months to implement training requirement changes requested by the Pentagon.
- The State Department failed to draw up any means of assessing DynCorp's work. "The current task orders do not provide any specific information regarding what type of training is required or any measurement of acceptability. ...Additionally, the current contract does not include any measurement of contractor performance."
- Oversight of invoices and receipts submitted by the contractor was virtually non-existent.
- The description of the State department's seven-member oversight team as "in country" is "misleading". Only three of the seven "in-country" State Department officials officially in charge of overseeing DynCorp contract were based in Afghanistan. (Three were U.S-based and the seventh worked on an entirely different contract.)
- Much of the equipment provided by the U.S. for training had gone missing. During site visits to three police training centers in Bamiyan, Herat and Kandahar, the inspectors randomly selected 123 items from an inventory list of vehicles, weapons and electronics, but could only locate 34. In Kandahar, nine "sensitive items" - pistols, rifles, and scopes - could not be located.
A subsequent check up at DynCorp's headquarters in Kabul showed that the weapons were signed out by company personnel. Of 89 non-sensitive items, only two could be located. The Kandahar site coordinator explained that the list was inaccurate and out of date.
- Money, too, was unaccounted for or misappropriated. Inspectors quoted a preliminary audit that identified 322 million dollars in invoices for the State department's global police training program that were approved "even though they were not allowable, allocatable, or reasonable."
Roughly 50 percent of the approved invoices that the inspectors reviewed had errors. The inspectors general recommended that the State Department should return a "minimum" of 80 million dollars from the Afghanistan budget to the Pentagon.
Douglas Ebner, a company spokesman, emailed IPS to say that DynCorp "welcome[d] the emphasis on oversight and accountability."
He noted that DynCorp inventory system had been approved by the Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA). "Sensitive items are inventoried and documented on a monthly basis. The audit report notes that sensitive items in fact were accounted for as being properly signed out by contractor personnel," wrote Ebner.
The State department acknowledges many of the problems with oversight. "We agree with report recommendations to station more contracting officer representatives in country for oversight and are moving forward," said Susan R. Pittman, a State department spokesperson. The State Department, she added, was developing "standard operating procedures (specifically) identifying duties and responsibilities" for the oversight officials.
But Pittman took issue with the inspector general conclusion that there was an 80-million-dollar overcharge, noting that the State department was conducting an audit to determine "how much we can return."
While the inspectors general have criticized the lack of State Department oversight, they have not found fault with DynCorp. "Based on what the contract stated, we saw no problem with the contractor," Arntson told CorpWatch.
Yet if the measures that are used to track the capabilities of the Afghan police are any guide, the contract has not been a resounding success.
All told, the Afghan National Police had 94,958 personnel on the rolls as of Dec. 31, 2009 organized into 365 police districts, but only about one quarter have actually completed formal training, according to Pentagon records.
Just 17 percent of the 64 police districts reviewed by the inspectors general had sufficient equipment and were capable of conducting law enforcement operations by themselves. Half of the police districts were classified as "present in geographic location" with up to a level of 69 percent of equipment and personnel and "partially capable of conducting law enforcement with coalition support."
Recent statistics appear to show that the success rates is sliding backward, despite a March 2009 promise by the Barack Obama administration to devote more resources to standing up the Afghan security forces.
Figures tucked away in a January 2010 Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) report, for example, displayed some alarming trends. A review that covered 97 police districts assessed just 12 percent as capable of independent operations. Between the third and fourth quarter of 2009, the number of police districts that were considered incapable of conducting law enforcement operations rose from 13 to 21 percent.
DynCorp is not being considered for a new billion-dollar training contract by the Pentagon office in charge - the Counter Narcoterrorism Technology Program Office (CNTPO) in Dahlgren, Virginia. Instead, CNTPO plans to select from five pre-approved vendors: Xe (formerly Blackwater), Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and ARINC Engineering Services.
DynCorp is not taking this lying down - the company has filed a protest with the Government Accountability Office, alleging that the approach is "procedurally and legally flawed." A decision is expected by Mar. 24, 2010.
Ryder continues to insist that DynCorp is the most qualified to do police training. "[N]either our military nor European National police were formed or trained to teach basic law enforcement skills," he told the Commission on Wartime Contracting. "At DynCorp International we do not build satellites. We do not design aircraft. We do training and mentoring. That is our core competency - and this competency is represented in the DNA of our 30,000 employees worldwide."
Pratap Chatterjee is a senior editor at CorpWatch. This article was produced in partnership with CorpWatch.