Today's AfPak round-up:
Afghan companies allegedly owed millions by U.S. firms. According to a NATO official, American contractors hired by the Pentagon are "contributing to fueling the insurgency" by failing to pay their Afghan subcontractors, adding that because Afghans are unlikely to hire American attorneys, they have almost no chance of ever seeing payment. One company, Bennett-Fouch, is alleged to owe $1.5 million to Afghan businessman Jalaluddin Saeed for four contracts to build concrete barriers for U.S. and NATO military bases last year. Saeed had to flee Kandahar along with his family to escape angry creditors. [NYT]
Afghans paid nearly $1B in bribes last year: survey. Nearly 30% of Afghan households surveyed reported having paid a bribe in the past year; over three-quarters of these households are in rural areas, where NATO forces have struggled to persuade residents to ally with them against the Taliban. More than a quarter of respondents felt deprived of access to justice and security because of corruption, and half of those surveyed said state corruption helped the Taliban expand. The survey was conducted by the monitoring group Integrity Watch Afghanistan. [Guardian, WaPo]VIDEO: U.S. troops in Afghanistan say rules of engagement too restrictive.
Soldiers say rules authored by Gen. Stanley McChrystal to minimize civilian casualties, currently under review by Gen. David Petraeus, are making it difficult for U.S. troops to take the fight to the Taliban. [GlobalPost]
British accomplished little in violent Sangin district, say Afghans. Locals say Britain will withdraw from the small town, whose insurgents have claimed the lives of over 100 British soldiers over the past four years, having failed to deliver peace or development. Though British soldiers enjoy battlefield superiority in the town, frequent "presence patrols" they were required to conduct as part of their counterinsurgency strategy made them easy targets for insurgents' roadside bombs and landmines. [Guardian]
U.S. to spend $3 billion on countering IEDs. The funds will be used to deploy new detection equipment and about 1,000 counter-IED experts to Afghanistan; officials say this will at least double Washington's current counter-IED capacity. IEDs, or improvised explosive devices, are a leading cause of death among NATO troops. Their use by Afghan insurgents has skyrocketed over the past two years. [AFP]