Watchdog: Tight security hinders oversight of US Afghan aid

The U.S. watchdog tasked with overseeing the spending of billions of U.S. dollars in aid to Afghanistan said unprecedented restrictions on the movement of American government employees is sending a dangerous message to Afghan people and hinder the U.S. work in the country.

He said the message the tight security sends is: “The terrorists should be feared and may actually be winning.”

The quarterly report released Tuesday by the special inspector general says American government employees rarely step outside the heavily fortified U.S. Embassy compound in central Kabul and when they do, they stay nearby, in the “green zone” where most foreign embassies are located, protected by guards and fortifications that block streets, often frustrating residents.

“Hunkering down behind blast walls damages not only the U.S. civilian mission but also handicaps the U.S. military mission,” Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John F. Sopko said in his report. “In the long run, such extreme risk aversion and avoidance may even contribute to greater insecurity, since it limits U.S. diplomatic reach to the very Afghans necessary to foster stability, rule of law, and economic growth, while sending an unintended, but dangerous message to friend and foe alike that the terrorists should be feared and may actually be winning.”

Sopko said the restrictions affect everything from monitoring U.S. aid to interacting with ordinary Afghans, many of whom would have difficulty accessing the heavily fortified embassy.

Afghanistan, and Kabul in particular, has seen a spike in violence in the last four months. May 31 saw the worst attack since the Taliban’s ouster in December 2001 when a massive truck bomb devastated the center of Kabul, killing 150 people and wounding scores more. On Monday the so-called Islamic State group attacked the Iraqi Embassy in the center of Kabul laying siege for four hours before all the attackers…

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