Tuesday, April 13, 2021

The Pentagon could open itself to costly litigation from contractors if the US pulls out of Afghanistan this year


With the White House increasingly expiring and no formal decisions, the future of the contracts, some of which date back to 2023 and beyond, remains unclear, but the Pentagon likely suffered hundreds of millions in settlements or face years May have to be paid. Litigation if the US pulls out of the country based on the schedule or by the end of the year President Joe Biden Has been suggested.

“If they have a billion-dollar contract, they are going to have a barrel full of lawsuits in their hands, unless they are willing to compromise for whatever amount they can ask contractors,” former Chief Minister Dow . Financial Officer for the Department of Defense.

“We are not staying for long,” he said in his first press conference. “We’ll leave. The question is when will we leave.”

Biden was specifically asked about US troops in Afghanistan, but the Doha Agreement, signed on February 29 last year, removed “non-diplomatic civilian personnel, private security contractors, trainers, consultants and support services personnel.” Also called.

Yet his immediate future is as vague as the outlook on a troop return.

“The general trend about the number of DoD contractors in Afghanistan continues downward. It still remains too early to speculate whether it will continue on-par with potential troops, as future force levels No decision has been made about that. In Afghanistan, “Pentagon spokesman Major Rob Lodwick said.

More contractors have been killed in Afghanistan than American soldiers

Since the beginning of America’s longest war, contractors have paid a higher price than members of the service. According to the washington post Afghanistan papers, In contrast to around 2,300 soldiers, 3,814 contractors were killed in Afghanistan by the end of 2018.

At the height of Afghanistan’s military between 2011 and 2012, according to data from the Congressional Research Service, the country had 99,800 American service members and 117,227 contractors. But as the number of troops in Afghanistan declined, contractors began to reduce the number of troops. Afghanistan now has about 2,500 soldiers, but 18,000 contractors. About half of these contractors work in base support, logistics or maintenance, while the rest play roles in safety, training, construction and other tasks.

They may be more important to the stability of the country and the Afghan government than the US and allied troops, said John Sopko, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR).

Sopco told the Center for Strategic and International Studies in mid-March, “Why? Because the Afghan government relies on these foreign contractors and trainers to do the work.” “needed [the withdrawal] Come to a close, SIGAR and many others believe that it could be more destructive to the effectiveness of Afghan security forces – and the survival of the Afghan state as we know it – by the withdrawal of our remaining military forces . “

Contractors maintain equipment, manage supply chains, undergo military and police training and operate advanced equipment brought into the country.

“By December, the Afghan National Army was meeting its target of 20 percent under its own maintenance work orders,” Sopko said. The Afghan National Police was even further behind in completing 12 percent of its own maintenance, lower than the more modest target of 35 percent.

Even as the withdrawal deadline expires, and for a decision to grow more imminent, the Department of Defense has issued more contracts for work in Afghanistan.

Some of these contracts can be canceled under what is called the “contract terminated in the government’s interest”, “where the contract has ended”. The contractor can then agree to a settlement with the government, or the contractor can sue if they do not agree on a settlement, explained Zakime, who under President George W. Bush, of the Department of Defense for Civilian Programs in Afghanistan Also worked as a coordinator.

“That’s really the issue. The government can’t just say, ‘Hell with you.” “The point of termination for the facility is that the government will likely have to pay the contractor.”

The contract was agreed after the return date was determined

On March 12, just 50 days before the March 1 deadline, the Department of Defense signed a $ 9.7 million contract with Texron Systems Corp. for “force-protection efforts” at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, including unmanned aerial systems, intelligence , Reconnaissance arrangements included. even more. The work was expected to be completed by March 2022, which was after the deadline.

The day before, the department signed a contract with Salient Federal Services for $ 24.9 million for information technology infrastructure in Afghanistan. The contract has a completion date of March 2022.

In particular, two fixed-firm-price security contracts totaling $ 68.2 million with the private security service, Aegis Defense Services, have completion dates in late 2023 and early 2026. The company did not respond to a CNN request for comment.

US military war games classified as concerns about growing threats by China and Russia

Altogether 18 contracts worth $ 931 million were issued after the Doha Agreement was signed on February 29, 2020, which related to Afghanistan with completion dates after the May 1 withdrawal deadline. . Some contracts, such as those of Textron Systems Corp and Salient Federal Services, deal exclusively with Afghanistan. Others, such as the $ 383.3 million contract from April 2020, relate to the production of M16A4 military rifles for several countries, including Afghanistan.

The vast majority of contracts – $ 821.2 million – were signed under the Trump administration, which began attracting troop numbers very quickly after the signing of the Doha Agreement between the administration and the Taliban. Within a year, the former administration lowered troop levels to the current level of around 13,000 to 2,500, clearing its intention to leave Afghanistan altogether by the May 1 deadline.

Three of the contractors contacted by CNN declined to provide any details on the plans last May. One cited operational safety requirements, while the other pointed to various possibilities, saying, “There are a lot of possible scenarios and it would be difficult to know what would or might not happen.”

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