06/16/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

U.S. Contractors Failed To Train Afghans To Adjust Gun Sights

$6 billion later, Afghan policemen don't know how to shoot properly. After doling out more than $6 billion to train Afghan policemen, we may now know why the Afghan National Police isn't too well trained: somebody forgot to tell them how to adjust the sights on their AK-47s before shooting. U.S. government contractors are largely responsible for training police forces, but Senate hearings and assessments by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) have found that these contracts are plagued with mismanagement, according to McClatchy Newspapers. Senator McCaskill (D-MO) described the revelations as "an unbelievable, incompetent story of contracts." DynCorp, the current contractor for police training, faced a slew of criticisms from the Senate's Contracting Oversight panel, but will receive an extension on its contract until August of this year, reports HuffPost's Christine Spolar.

From McClatchy Newspapers:

Investigations by the Government Accounting Office and the inspector generals from the Departments of State and Defense have sharply criticized both the contractors and the government oversight. They detailed a lack of supervision and controls over spending, among other failures.

Meanwhile, the GAO has impeded Xe Services (formerly Blackwater) from receiving the contract, which it had initially received but had put on hold after Senators and the GAO intervened. On a related note, we reported last month that Senator Levin (D-MI) had asked the Justice Department to inquire if Blackwater had created a shell corporation in order to compete for the Afghan police training contract.

Why counterinsurgency isn't that easy. Time's Joe Klein tells the story of how Captain Jeremiah Ellis--a commander of Dog Company, based in Senjaray, outside of Kandahar city--struggled to get local and NATO approval to open up a school in one of Afghanistan's most dangerous districts. The challenges Captain Ellis faced in trying to build a school are a metaphor for the broader challenges the new American-led counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan confronts. We learn that the locals don't trust U.S. troops and continue to work with the Taliban, both out of fear and sympathy. Money for a canal project, Ellis finds out, would eventually end up in the hands of the Taliban. Ellis also complains of the bureaucracy that impedes the troops' attempts to build projects--they must seek the approval of the locals, NATO command, and any other authorities in control of the area. At one point, the project for the new school seems like it's about to fall apart. In the end, though, Ellis succeeds, and the locals get their school. But the larger question--will General McChyrstal's counterinsurgency succeed?--remains unanswered.

A detailed look at what happened to Bhutto. In Foreign Policy, Huma Imtiaz takes a detailed look at the new U.N. report on Benazir Bhutto's assassination in 2007. The report says nothing new, notes Imtiaz, but points to various interesting details from it. For instance, Osama bin Laden had put out a hit on Bhutto, Musharraf, and Maulana Fazal ur Rahman, a leader of a Pakistani Islamic party on December 20, 2007. Even in light of the new intelligence, the U.N. commission found that no new security directives to protect Ms. Bhutto were issued. Most damningly, it found that a black Mercedes-Benz, which was part of Bhutto's convoy, quickly sped off after the blast, failing to help Bhutto. The occupants of that car? Drum rolls please: present members of the cabinet, Interior Minister Rehman Malik and Minister for Law Babar Awan.

No foreigners died in Kandahar. Reuters reports that no foreigners died in an attack yesterday on a compound housing foreign workers in Kandahar. However, three Afghans died and 26 Afghans and foreigners were injured as a result. Taliban militants have recently stepped up attacks on foreigners and coalition troops in the area. NATO and Afghan forces are planning a major military campaign this June to clear Kandahar of Taliban insurgents. But, according to an AP story we cited earlier, many Afghans are skeptical of the offensive and believe that it will only exacerbate tensions in Kandahar. Yesterday's attack is perhaps a precursor to violence in the coming months.

Kandahar frustrated with everyone. As U.S. and Afghan troops try to shore up support for their planned offensive in Kandahar province this June, the residents of Kandahar city--once the capital of the Taliban, and now a key battleground--expressed frustration with both the Taliban and the NATO and Afghan coalition forces in the area. The Associated Press interviewed several residents, who worried that the upcoming offensive would only increase insecurity.

From the AP:

"The Americans are responsible for the insecurity and the Taliban are responsible too," said Janan, a mobile phone salesman. "The Americans are bombing innocent civilians and the Taliban are killing Afghan civilians with their suicide attacks."

Residents complained that the new offensive would lead the Taliban to plant more bombs and to more violence. Some also expressed a yearning for the rule of the Taliban. One resident told the AP that "[w]hen the Taliban were here, I could get a job. Now I can get a job, but the difference is today there is no security. We are not politicians, we are not soldiers. We just want peace."

Day after attack on German troops, Merkel reaffirms commitment to Afghan war. Despite a new poll revealing that 62 percent of Germans want their country to withdraw from Afghanistan, and a day after Germany lost four soldiers in a rocket attack, German Chancellor Angela Merkel reaffirmed her commitment to the war in Afghanistan, calling it "a mission that guarantees our freedom and security," reports The Associated Press. Speaking at Stanford University, Merkel said that she understood that many in her country opposed the war, but she told those gathered, "I support this mission."