You Can’t Spread Justice in an Insecure Country

Back in July, SIGAR noted that $50 million in US funds had been awarded in a sole source contract secured only by a short letter of agreement between the Department of State and the contractor, the International Development Law Organization, known as IDLO.  That contract was for one of three programs that are administered by State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) under the overall program called the Justice Sector Support Program, JSSP. IDLO’s contract covers Regional Justice Sector Training. PAE, which previously had been the contractor for all of JSSP, retains responsibility for the other two programs, a Case Management System and Institutional/Administrative Capacity Building. Over $200 million has been invested by INL for JSSP.

In an audit released today (pdf) SIGAR found that the contract with PAE is limited in how PAE’s performance can be assessed and whether the goals of JSSP are being achieved.

There is a much larger overall problem, though, and it is in how this program, like all of the rest of US plans for Afghanistan, was scuttled by the abject failure of the military to bring peace to Afghanistan. Note that the original plan was for the justice program to spread throughout Afghanistan. But the abject failure of the military to stabilize the country means that this program only was able to address small portions of the country:

Specifically, under the May 2011 statement of work agreed to between INL and PAE, the case management system was supposed to be completed nationwide by May 2012. However, geographic, logistical, and other challenges prevented PAE from expanding the electronic, internet-based case management system beyond 7 of 34 of Afghanistan’s provinces. As a result, INL modified the contract by replacing the requirement for a nationwide system with one that required implementation in only the seven provinces where it had already been installed.

So a portion of the program meant for all of the country wound up being operational in only 7 out of 34 provinces because of many failures, but I suspect that the indirect language in this section is meant to gloss over security failures being the main reason for restricting the reach of the program. I see no evidence that the budget for this portion of the program was cut to reflect the smaller size, so I wonder if PAE merely got to pocket what they would have spent expanding to the missing 27 provinces.

As noted back in July, the transfer of a portion of JSSP to IDLO was suspect. Today’s audit doesn’t reduce the concerns about IDLO:

IDLO has faced high leadership turnover and budgetary shortfalls that, according to IDLO’s Audit and Finance Committee, raise serious questions about the future sustainability of the organization. Furthermore, although INL officials stated that the transfer to IDLO would result in lower costs, INL did not conduct a formal cost/benefit analysis to support this assertion or a “lessons learned” evaluation of the work performed by PAE that could have been used to help develop the JTTP. INL originally required PAE to conduct a detailed evaluation of the JSSP’s Regional Justice Sector Training component in 2012. However, it is now expected to be completed by the end of 2013.

So IDLO was in danger of no longer existing and INL also has been over a year late in getting PAE to provide an evaluation of the work they had done on this section of the program in order for IDLO to have a good idea of which direction to head. Why would INL even choose IDLO? It seems to me that the biggest reason was once again most likely the failed security situation:

INL’s assertion that it was becoming increasingly difficult for PAE to operate in Afghanistan because the contractor could no longer use private security contractors for its protection. PAE—like other private contractors working in Afghanistan—is now required to use Afghan Public Protection Force personnel for security. The Afghan Public Protection Force is a state-owned enterprise under the jurisdiction of the Afghan Ministry of Interior. INL officials told us IDLO, an international organization with United Nations Observer Status, has a waiver that allows it to use private security contractors for security. State asserts that this exemption limits IDLO’s security costs and gives it more freedom of movement throughout Afghanistan.

It appears that INL decided that its contractors would not be safe if they depended on Karzai’s hand-picked security organization and so they had to move this portion of the contract to the only group they could find that had a waiver to employ private security contractors.

The remainder of the audit is very interesting reading and shows that SIGAR has serious concerns about how progress in the program can be tracked and evaluated, as well as concerns about how expenses can be justified. But to me, the whole debacle shows the folly of the US misadventures in Afghanistan. Despite spending over $200 million to spread a justice program throughout the country, many Afghans are more likely to seek justice in a Taliban court than one affiliated with the Afghan government.

9 replies
  1. Stu Wilde says:

    A lot has been made about the dismal record of fraud, waste & abuse in both Iraq & AFG — there are umpteen SIGAR reports documenting horrendous contracting episodes from all over those battlefields. However, the emphasis is mostly on military contracts — what is often overlooked — is how poorly the DoS managed contracts… if hilary decides to run in ’16, I hope some light is cast in the dark shadows of the BILLIONS of dollars squandered by State during her tenure

  2. liberalrob says:

    @Stu Wilde: “I hope some light is cast in the dark shadows of the BILLIONS of dollars squandered by State during her tenure”

    Oh, I’m sure there will be. Just as was done for the BILLIONS of dollars squandered (and flat-out lost) by the Bush Admin. during our glorious Iraq adventure. Right?

    @Don Bacon: “I guess the twelve years of air raids and Hellfire missiles didn’t encourage justice.”

    Clearly we didn’t bomb enough militant weddings. And now we’re going to get kicked out by Karzai, just when we’re a few Friedman Units away from seeing real progress…

  3. liberalrob says:

    “But to me, the whole debacle shows the folly of the US misadventures in Afghanistan.”

    From which we will, of course, learn nothing.

    Afghanistan has become Vietnam 2: the do-over. And it is turning out the same way. Fewer dead American troops is a sort of improvement, I guess, but it’s still a failure. How many more lessons will we need?

    The Prime Directive is the only way.

  4. earlofhuntingdon says:

    As you say, it’s window dressing for the plebes, like having an assassin give seminars in gun safety in the home.

  5. P J Evans says:

    Yeah, Our Benevolent National Masters never seem to have studied history. The Afghans have won every war against invaders, for more than 2000 years. Expecting them to roll over and play dead is really ignorant of history.

  6. Don Bacon says:

    From what we know, Karzai won’t sign the BSA because the US refuses to halt night raids and Hellfire assassinations. These two strategies are so important to the US that it won’t consider keeping troops in Afghanistan without them. Why won’t the US discontinue them? Why are they a big deal?

    It is a big deal, apparently, to the US. Does this policy apply only to Afghanistan? The US has regular troops, special forces and CIA in many countries. Will the US employ its Afghan strategies elsewhere? Korea? Serbia? Probably in Somalia it applies. Where else? It’s a global war on terror, after all.

    In Afghanistan it looks like Karzai isn’t willing to cede these raid, torture and assassination rights to the US, so no SOFA/BSA and no regular troops. But the US more and more exerts its power by unconventional means, using special forces and CIA.

    These are some things to consider, because this is more than a simple BSA discussion.

  7. Stu Wilde says:

    @P J Evans: from your response it appears you do not believe in accountability. If so, then we really cannot have any sort of discourse on this subject. This malady [not believing in accountability] has infected our federal govt to such a degree as to render it inoperable. Govt employees/operatives routinely break the law with no deterrent in sight. No prosecutions — hell, no one even gets fired anymore.

    But back to my original point, no doubt mrs clinton will run on her extremely long record of successes, but I cannot find any during her tenure as head of State and I for one believe she should shoulder at least some of the blame for all of the failed aid programs (and Benghazi).

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