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Special Afghanistan IG Isn’t Looking at Afghan Police Corruption « The Washington Independent

More from this morning’s House hearing on oversight of the approximately $30 billion spent by the U.S. in Afghanistan: Retired Gen. Arnold Fields, the relatively new Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, said that he isn’t looking at corruption in the Afghanistan police force, which many reporters, including myself, have seen first-hand.

The Government Accountability Office’s managing director for international affairs and trade, Jacquelyn Williams-Bridgers, stepped in to say that her office was focusing its oversight efforts on the billions — $18 billion, to be specific — spent on building the Afghanistan security forces, but would soon shift some of its focus from the Army to the police. Fields, by contrast, suggested that he required an expansion of his office’s mandate to “look across agencies” in order to “build to a more substantial effort on these matters.”

That’s in line with some recent press criticism that Fields, and the entire SIGAR apparatus for overseeing billions in U.S. expenditures in Afghanistan, isn’t up to the task. As Time reported last month, SIGAR has completed just two reports into how the money’s being spent during the office’s first year in existence, compared with *fourteen *in the first year’s worth of work for the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. (Fields today promised two more by December, with one, on military commanders’ discretionary spending, to be released in the next 24 hours.)

But when Fields was asked to address that criticism, all he said was that it was “not unexpected,” given how “late” it was in “getting funding” from Congress, and pledged to hire more auditors and investigators. (SIGAR has now received something like $23 million.) Yet Fields added that even though he didn’t think his office had “excess capacity,” he thought it would be “beneficial” to put oversight of Pakistan spending under his purview as well. So he doesn’t have the money or the capacity to properly oversee Afghanistan spending but he wants to expand his efforts across the Pakistan border?

The other inspectors at the hearing — from the Government Accountability Office, State, Defense and USAID — all seemed better prepared and informed than Fields. When asked about oversight of that commanders’ discretionary spending, for instance, all Fields said was that Congress should await his imminent report. Williams-Bridgers, by contrast, immediately said that addressing unspecified problems with the spending required “additional coordination between USAID and DOD.” And then Howard Geisel, the State Department’s inspector general, said that he had “serious concerns” with the spending as well, and it’s not even clear what role State has in overseeing it. It’s worth waiting for Fields’ report to judge him, but his performance on the Hill didn’t create much confidence that his office is doing its job.

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