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Archive for the ‘Afghanistan’ Category

CRS — Iraqi and Afghan Special Immigrant Visa Programs (September 12, 2014)

September 19, 2014 Comments off

Iraqi and Afghan Special Immigrant Visa Programs (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Congress has enacted a series of legislative provisions since 2006 to enable certain Iraqi and Afghan nationals to become U.S. lawful permanent residents (LPRs). These provisions make certain Iraqis and Afghans who have worked as translators or interpreters, or who were employed by, or on behalf of, the U.S. government in Iraq or Afghanistan, eligible for special immigrant visas (SIVs). Special immigrants comprise a category of permanent employment-based admissions under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). While the special immigrant category is unique, it does bear some similarities to other admission categories that are authorized by other sections of the INA, including refugees and Amerasian children.

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Left in the Dark: International Military Operations in Afghanistan

August 18, 2014 Comments off

Left in the Dark: International Military Operations in Afghanistan
Source: Amnesty International

Thousands of Afghan civilians have been killed since 2001 by international forces, and thousands more have been injured. This report examines the record of accountability for civilian deaths caused by international military operations in the five-year period from 2009 to 2013. In particular, it focuses on the performance of the US government in investigating possible war crimes and in prosecuting those suspected of criminal responsibility for such crimes. Its overall finding is that the record is poor.

CRS — Afghanistan: Politics, Elections, and Government Performance (updated)

August 6, 2014 Comments off

Afghanistan: Politics, Elections, and Government Performance (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. State Department Foreign Press Center)

The capacity, transparency, legitimacy, and cohesiveness of Afghan governance are crucial to Afghan stability as U.S.-led NATO forces exit Afghanistan by 2016. The size and capability of the Afghan governing structure has increased significantly since the Taliban regime fell in late 2001, but the government remains weak and rife with corruption. Hamid Karzai has served as president since late 2001; he is constitutionally term-limited and will leave office after the conclusion of presidential and provincial elections. The first round of took place on April 5, 2014, and the results required a June 14 runoff between Dr. Abdullah Abdullah and former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani.

The runoff increased ethnic tensions between Pashtuns, Afghanistan’s largest group represented by Ghani, and the second largest group the Tajiks, with whom Abdullah is identified. Amid accusations by Abdullah of a fraud-inspired large increase in turnout between the two rounds, preliminary results released July 7 showed Ghani ahead 56% to 44%. With Abdullah’s supporters urging him to declare himself the winner and form a government, Secretary of State Kerry visited Afghanistan to broker a July 12 resolution of the dispute. Under the agreement, all 23,000 ballot boxes would be recounted under international supervision, and the winner of the election would agree to appoint the loser as a “chief executive” of government, pending a more permanent constitutional alteration to a prime ministerial system. The recount has proceeded more slowly than expected due to distrust between the two camps and there are differing expectations for the post-election power-sharing agreement. The vote count might not be completed and a new president sworn in until well into September 2014.

Lack of Planning in $34.4 Million Department of Agriculture Soybean Program in Afghanistan

July 29, 2014 Comments off

Lack of Planning in $34.4 Million Department of Agriculture Soybean Program in Afghanistan (PDF)
Source: Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction

The Honorable Tom Vilsack Secretary U.S. Department of Agriculture

Dear Mr. Secretary:

Thank you for your response to my inquiry letter dated April 17, 2014, concerning the Soybeans for Agricultural Renewal in Afghanistan Initiative (SARAI) funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). After examining the materials that you provided, I’m concerned about the viability of the project and the apparent lack of analysis and planning performed prior to the project’s initiation. I’m most troubled by the following issues:

• The USDA confirmed that soybean production in Afghanistan has not met expectations and that there are doubts concerning the long-term sustainability of a soybean processing factory built as part of the project.

• The project’s implementer, the American Soybean Association, did not conduct feasibility or value-chain studies prior to initiation of the project in 2010.

• Scientific research conducted for the UK Department for International Development between 2005 and 2008 concluded that soybeans were inappropriate for conditions and farming practices in northern Afghanistan, where the program was implemented.

• Despite the lack of prior planning and analysis, and despite evidence that may have put the success of the program in doubt, USDA provided $34.4 million in commodities, transportation, and administrative funds to ASA for SARAI.

Iran’s Influence in Afghanistan: Implications for the U.S. Drawdown

July 18, 2014 Comments off

Iran’s Influence in Afghanistan: Implications for the U.S. Drawdown
Source: RAND Corporation

This study explores Iranian influence in Afghanistan and the implications for the United States after the departure of most American forces from Afghanistan. Iran has substantial economic, political, cultural, and religious leverage in Afghanistan. Kabul faces an obdurate insurgency that is likely to exploit the U.S. and international drawdown. The Afghan government will also face many economic difficulties in future years, and Afghanistan is highly dependent on international economic aid. Additionally, the biggest problem facing Afghanistan may be political corruption. Iranian influence in Afghanistan following the drawdown of international forces need not necessarily be a cause of concern for the United States though. Although Tehran will use its cultural, political, and economic sway in an attempt to shape a post-2016 Afghanistan, Iran and the United States share core interests there: to prevent the country from again becoming dominated by the Taliban and a safe haven for al Qaeda.

This study examines Iran’s historic interests in Afghanistan and its current policies in that country, and explores the potential implications for U.S. policy. The research is based on field interviews in Afghanistan, the use of primary sources in Dari and Persian, and scholarly research in English.

New From the GAO

June 11, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Reports and Testimonies
Source: Government Accountability Office

Reports

1. Nuclear Weapons: Ten-Year Budget Estimates for Modernization Omit Key Efforts, and Assumptions and Limitations Are Not Fully Transparent. GAO-14-373, June 10.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-373
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/664003.pdf

2. Health Care Access: Improved Oversight, Accountability, and Prioritization Can Improve Access for Native American Veterans. GAO-14-489, June 10.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-489
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/664009.pdf

3. Managing for Results: OMB Should Strengthen Reviews of Cross-Agency Goals. GAO-14-526, June 10.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-526
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/664021.pdf

Testimonies

1. Biosurveillance: Observations on the Cancellation of BioWatch Gen-3 and Future Considerations for the Program, by Chris Currie, acting director, homeland security and justice, before the Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Communications, House Committee on Homeland Security. GAO-14-267T, June 10.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-267T
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/664000.pdf

2. Afghanistan: Oversight and Accountability of U.S. Assistance, by Charles Michael Johnson, Jr., director, international affairs and trade, before the Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, House Committee on Foreign Affairs. GAO-14-680T, June 10.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-680T
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/664033.pdf

3. Information Technology: Reform Initiatives Can Help Improve Efficiency and Effectiveness, by David A. Powner, director, information technology management issues, before the Subcommittee on Efficiency and Effectiveness of Federal Programs and the Federal Workforce, Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. GAO-14-671T, June 10.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-671T
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/664031.pdf

4. VA Health Care: Ongoing and Past Work Identified Access, Oversight, and Data Problems That Hinder Veterans’ Ability to Obtain Timely Outpatient Medical Care, by Debra A. Draper, director, health care, before the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. GAO-14-679T, June 9.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-679T
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/663935.pdf

SIGAR — Baghlan Prison: Severe Damage to $11.3 Million Facility Requires Extensive Remedial Action

June 5, 2014 Comments off

Baghlan Prison: Severe Damage to $11.3 Million Facility Requires Extensive Remedial Action (PDF)
Source: Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction

After construction of the Baghlan prison was completed in November 2012, building settlement occurred, which led to serious structural damage including wide cracks to three buildings. As a result, one building was demolished. Two other buildings also have collapsing walls and cracked structural beams and columns and will likely need to be rebuilt. The Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL) and its contractor, Omran Holding Group (OHG), an Afghan firm, do not agree on the cause of the building settlement and remain in negotiation regarding OHG’s responsibility for repairing the facilities and assuming the cost of those repairs. Nonetheless, both parties agree that OHG did not fully comply with all contract requirements. For example, OHG failed to construct a required stormwater management system and substituted lower-grade plumbing materials that had been prohibited by INL. OHG also failed to deduct 10 percent from its billed invoices to create a retainage fund as required by the contract. This led to an $807,254 shortfall in funds, which should have been retained for INL’s protection in the event of a contract dispute.

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