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To better Afghanistan, boot the contractors

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Criminal and civil investigations into Louis Berger Group follow an expose in The Christian Science Monitor about a failed $60 million USAID-funded project with PADCO, another development contractor, to provide electricity capacity in Afghanistan. One Afghan engineer familiar with the project summarized, “Fifty percent they didn’t do. They just dug this … and left.” The electricity chief for Badakhshan Province was just as upset: “Now the people are hating American companies like PADCO because many times they brought millions of dollars, but didn’t do anything.”

Scam artists

Contracting problems go beyond inflating costs or leaving projects unfinished. Christopher Shays, a former Republican congressman from Connecticut who is co-chair of the Commission on Wartime Contracting, said his team is looking into cases of contractors, or what he called “outright scam artists,” charging foreign laborers to fly them to supposed jobs in Dubai. But instead, contractors dump laborers on air bases in Afghanistan with no job, no identification, and no way home. “The bigger problem,” said one official quoted in the Washington Examiner, “is that we don’t know who they are but they are inside our installations…. This presents a security risk.”

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