Report: Afghan police barracks 'deplorable' despite US funding
By CID STANDIFER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: October 30, 2013
Despite hundreds of millions of dollars in American support for Afghan police facilities, officers at a district headquarters in Kunduz province have been left to live in squalor, a report from the U.S. government’s watchdog said.
A report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction focused on the police barracks in Archi district, with mold creeping across the ceiling and bathrooms where faucets have been ripped out of the walls. A small generator runs for only three hours per day to save fuel, which is in short supply. Heat, air conditioning and showers are altogether absent, it said.
Being a police officer is one of the deadliest jobs in Afghanistan. On Tuesday, the Afghan Interior Ministry’s head of police, Gen. Salim Ehsas, said nearly 1,300 regular policemen and almost 800 auxilliary officers have been killed in the last seven months.
The SIGAR report says police in Archi haven’t had running water at least since November 2012, when U.S. inspectors first visited the facility. The officers relied on outdoor tanks fed by a well. In order to flush their toilets, barracks residents had to haul pitchers of water into the bathroom and pour it into the toilet tank.
About 40 police officers live at the barracks, according to SIGAR. In a letter accompanying the report, Special Inspector General John Sopko called their living conditions “deplorable.”
The Army Corps of Engineers hired a local company to build defenses for the barracks in 2008. SIGAR said the walls and guard tower have held up, and admitted it could not determine who was responsible for building the barracks themselves. Until May 2012, the Army Corps of Engineers paid for the facility’s maintenance, but SIGAR couldn’t establish whether that maintenance had actually happened. When inspectors arrived six months later, the barracks were in very bad shape.
Notes from the SIGAR report
Click the photo for more annotated notes
In December 2012, the Afghan Ministry of the Interior took over responsibility for maintaining police facilities. Since March 2011, SIGAR said, the American government has given the Afghan Ministry of the Interior nearly $830 million for the task.
In the summer of 2013, SIGAR followed up with a call to the police at Archi, since the area had become too dangerous to visit. An officer said they still hadn’t received any maintenance funds.
“[T]he officials we spoke with told us that conditions have worsened because the water well stopped working in May 2013, and despite requests to have it repaired, it had not been fixed,” the report said. “The officials noted that water was being trucked to the site daily but that it was insufficient for their needs.”
Sarwar Hussaini, spokesman for the police headquarter of Kunduz province, said none of the other police facilities there have had problems getting maintenance funds, but confirmed there are problems at Archi.
“Actually, the construction company, which was responsible for building it, did not install the water and electricity system,” he said. “They handed over the half-built building to the police.”
In its response to the draft SIGAR report, the coalition’s Combined Security Transition Command said the Archi headquarters might just be low on the Afghan government’s list of priorities.
“Like in the United States, the Afghans may face difficult decisions when prioritizing a list of needs that may exceed the available budget. As a result, there are some projects or facilities that receive less funding than would be desired if the budget were unlimited,” the CSTC response said.
Zubair Babakarkhail contributed to this report.
There has been no running water at the police barracks in Archi district in Afghanistan's Kunduz province since at least November 2012, according to a report relased Oct. 30, 2013, by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. Police relied on outdoor tanks like this one, photographed on Nov. 19, 2012, for their water. In order to flush their toilets, barracks residents had to haul pitchers of water into the bathroom and pour it into the toilet tank.