Com­pany with ties to Tal­iban got ac­cess to NATO base

The Washington Times Daily - - World - BY KRISTINA WONG

An Afghan com­pany with ties to the Tal­iban gained ac­cess to a de­ten­tion fa­cil­ity lo­cated on a NATO air base be­cause of poor U.S. govern­ment com­mu­ni­ca­tion and in­ac­tion by the U.S. Army, ac­cord­ing to the U.S. spe­cial in­spec­tor gen­eral in Afghanistan.

The Depart­ment of Com­merce had flagged the Zur­mat Group and its sub­sidiaries in April 2012 be­cause of their in­volve­ment in pro­vid­ing com­po­nents for road­side bombs against U.S. and coali­tion forces.

In Septem­ber 2012, U.S. Cen­tral Com­mand iden­ti­fied Zur­mat and its sub­sidiaries as ac­tively sup­port­ing an in­sur­gency and re­stricted the com­pany from re­ceiv­ing any Pen­tagon con­tracts in the re­gion.

How­ever, that in­for­ma­tion was not passed on to a con­trac­tor tasked with build­ing a court­house on NATO’s Ba­gram Air Base at the Par­wan Jus­tice Cen­ter com­plex.

The con­trac­tor, CLC Con­struc­tion, hired Zur­mat to per­form test­ing on the court­house and al­lowed the com­pany ac­cess to the fa­cil­ity in Novem­ber 2012.

U.S. and coali­tion of­fi­cials need to re­view com­pa­nies des­ig­nated as threats and ban those iden­ti­fied as sup­port­ers of the in­sur­gency, the in­spec­tor gen­eral, John Sopko, wrote to De­fense Sec­re­tary Chuck Hagel in a Nov. 8 let­ter re­leased Wednes­day.

The in­ci­dent also high­lights the po­ten­tial con­se­quences of fail­ing to ban com­pa­nies iden­ti­fied as risks, said the in­spec­tor gen­eral, who added that he rec­om­mended in Septem­ber 2012 that the Army dis­qual­ify Zur­mat from U.S. con­tracts.

The in­spec­tor gen­eral, John Sopko, is seek­ing to ban 43 for­eign in­di­vid­u­als and com­pa­nies iden­ti­fied as sup­port­ing in­sur­gents in Afghanistan, but he said the U.S. Army has re­jected all of these re­quests out of con­cern that such ac­tion would vi­o­late their rights un­der the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion.

“Based on the ev­i­dence avail­able in these cases, the Army’s po­si­tion is legally du­bi­ous, con­trary to good pub­lic pol­icy and con­trary to our se­cu­rity goals in Afghanistan. I urge you to ad­dress this flawed ap­proach to pro­tect­ing U.S. tax­payer in­ter­ests and work with [the in­spec­tor gen­eral] to bring com­mon sense to the Army’s sus­pen­sion and de­bar­ment pro­gram,” Mr. Sopko said in his let­ter.

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