WASHINGTON: The United States is working on new approaches with India and Pakistan for promoting stability and reconciliation in Afghanistan, says the State Department.
The State Department’s annual report on its financial priorities for the new fiscal year highlights this as a key ingredient of new US strategy for South Asia that President Donald Trump announced on Aug 21.
“Our approach to South Asia, and specifically Afghanistan, means new approaches with India and Pakistan to deny safe havens to terrorist organisations,” says State Department Inspector General Steve A. Linick.
And the main purpose behind this new approach is to “create the conditions for reconciliation with the Taliban and a process that supports the Afghan government in providing security for their own people,” Mr Linick adds.
The report identifies the most serious management and performance challenges facing the State Department and assesses the department’s progress in addressing those challenges.
This year’s report details ongoing difficulties in monitoring and overseeing the anti-terrorism assistance programme in Pakistan. The report points out that the State Department has no staff in Pakistan responsible for verifying satisfactory contractor performance or monitoring whether required reports are submitted. Furthermore, the bureau had not adopted a meaningful way to measure progress toward programme goals.
The report notes that difficulty in obtaining visas from Pakistan is a contributing factor in the State Department’s flawed oversight and monitoring of the anti-terrorism assistance programme there. It also underlines the measures the State Department could take to improve oversight, including developing and implementing procedures to verify compliance with contract reporting requirements.
The report also identifies ways that the State Department’s own practices contributed to problems, notwithstanding the fact that oversight personnel could not be located in Pakistan. For example, the Contracting Offer waived - without formally modifying the terms of the contract - many reporting requirements that would have allowed the State Department to verify satisfactory contractor performance.
The report urges the State Department to develop and implement procedures to confirm compliance with contract reporting requirements. It also recommends that, in situations where the operating environment warrants a contract modification, State Department personnel with oversight responsibility should execute such modifications in line with appropriate guidelines.
The report notes that the challenges associated with contingency environments are not limited to those pertaining to contracts and grants.
The report also notes that the US mission’s security policies restricting staff travel in the country, made it difficult to meet with Pakistani contacts and audiences; this, in some cases, impeded operations or programme implementation.
Published in Dawn, November 28th, 2017