U.S. Money Wasted On Afghanistan Projects, Federal Auditor Says

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Today's AfPak news roundup:

Watchdog: U.S. wasting money on development projects Afghans can't maintain. Washington came under heavy fire from Arnold Fields, the U.S. special inspector general for Afghan reconstruction, for building a $45 million compound for Afghan security forces that is too complex and costly for the Afghan government to use. Fields called the buildings built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers an "outrageous waste of taxpayer money." Washington has acknowledged the problem, which it says it will solve by hiring a contractor to run the compound, albeit at a cost of $800 million over the next 10 years. [LA Times]

Northern Afghan women retreat behind the veil. Rising levels of violence in northern Afghanistan and efforts by the Afghan government to negotiate a peace agreement with the Taliban has led women in Mazar-e-Sharif, once one of the safest cities in Afghanistan, to once again adopt the burqa. Many of Mazar's residents believe it is only a matter of time before the Taliban return to power. [Express Tribune]

New sanctions on insurgents could slow peace process. Three key leaders of the Pakistan-based Haqqani terror network are banned from foreign travel, have had their assets frozen, and are subject to an arms embargo as a result of new sanctions imposed by the Obama Administration. This comes after Gen. David Petraeus and Sen. Carl Levin, Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, called for concrete action against the Haqqani leadership. The move likely complicates efforts by the Afghan and Pakistan governments to open formal peace talks with insurgents. [AP]

Mullen: Afghanistan can be "turned" by 2011. Adm. Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters that critics who argue it will take years for NATO to reverse the Taliban's momentum in Afghanistan ignore the fact that it only took 18 months to turn around a similarly difficult situation in Iraq in 2007. While acknowledging that Iraq and Afghanistan are vastly different countries, Mullen said he believed the Taliban's momentum will be reversed by June 2011, when U.S. troops are due to begin withdrawing from the country. [Voice of America News]