Is Afghan Fraud to Blame for Deaths of US Soldiers?

The New York Times drew our attention Tuesday to a watchdog group's disturbing discovery in Afghanistan. According to a report released by SIGAR (Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction), Afghan contractors' failure to follow through on contracts awarded by the U.S. government may be responsible for the injuries and deaths of American soldiers.

The contracted projects under scrutiny were called "Culvert Denial Systems." They involved installing grates in drain pipes known as "culverts" beneath roads in order to prevent insurgents from planting IEDs and other explosive devices inside (when you hear about "roadside bombs," this is typically the tactic at use).

The grates were supposed to be installed in at least 2500 locations throughout the country, but lack of supervision allegedly allowed Afghan contractors to get away with charging the U.S. government their fee —without actually following through on hundreds of installations, if not more.

Each grate installation cost the U.S. government between $800 and $6,500. It is impossible to know exactly how much money was awarded specifically to culvert projects, though the Department of Defense has given out $32 million in contracts of this kind since 2009. SIGAR's investigation is not yet complete, but they suspect that "this apparent failure to perform may have been a factor in the death or injury of several U.S. soldiers."

The United States officially handed over national security operations to Afghan forces just this June, 12 years after invading the country. The deep mistrust between the two countries' forces continues to run both ways.