What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Afghan police in Nawa - Where the ammo came from

In January I wrote a blog upon having read C.J. Chivers' excellent article in the NY Times about the problems the Afghan police had to face in Nawa district, in Ghazni province. It gave one an impression of mismanagement all over the ANP's and the Afghan interior ministry's leadership, and of how much superiors were letting down the policemen out there in the outlying bases, facing attacks almost every day. That particular police outpost Chivers wrote of had three unexploded rockets littering its courtyard, and yet the policemen stationed there weren't paid regularly, and even their ammunition was totally unreliable.
But the latter issue wasn't the Afghan government's responsibility really. Back in January Chivers wrote - highlighting by me:
"The ammunition the Pentagon provided (...) came in cardboard boxes that immediately crumbled, exposing cartridges to the elements on (...) [the] storeroom’s dirty floor."
And since then Chivers has gone on to investigate this case, and, doing a brilliant job, found a background to this issue upon hearing which you can really only say, "you can't make this sh*t up." Excerpt:
"... to arm the Afghan forces that it hopes will lead this fight, the American military has relied since early last year on a fledgling company led by a 22-year-old man whose vice president was a licensed masseur.
With the award last January of a federal contract worth as much as nearly $300 million, the company, AEY Inc., which operates out of an unmarked office in Miami Beach, became the main supplier of munitions to Afghanistan’s army and police forces.
Since then, the company has provided ammunition that is more than 40 years old and in decomposing packaging, according to an examination of the munitions by The New York Times and interviews with American and Afghan officials. Much of the ammunition comes from the aging stockpiles of the old Communist bloc, including stockpiles that the State Department and NATO have determined to be unreliable and obsolete, and have spent millions of dollars to have destroyed.
In purchasing munitions, the contractor has also worked with middlemen and a shell company on a federal list of entities suspected of illegal arms trafficking.
Moreover, tens of millions of the rifle and machine-gun cartridges were manufactured in China, making their procurement a possible violation of American law. The company’s president, Efraim E. Diveroli, was also secretly recorded in a conversation that suggested corruption in his company’s purchase of more than 100 million aging rounds in Albania, according to audio files of the conversation.
This week, after repeated inquiries about AEY’s performance by The Times, the Army suspended the company from any future federal contracting, citing shipments of Chinese ammunition and claiming that Mr. Diveroli misled the Army by saying the munitions were Hungarian."
Efraim Diveroli, the 22 year-old mentioned above, happened to become Prez of the company at the age of 19. He did have previous experience with weapons procurement contracts - the short time he spent on a related job at his uncle's company.
Read the entire article. Diveroli did business in countries such as Albania, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Montenegro, Romania and Slovakia, buying up decades-old ammunition, for example Albanian stockpiles more than 40 years old, originally from China. One shouldn't miss the importance of the fact that his cost-effective dealings were possible in the first place because the Pentagon didn't bother to enforce NATO or even Russian standards in procurement contracts for the supply of former eastern bloc ammunition to the Afghan forces. So all those more than 40 years old rounds were not expected to have been regularly tested since their safe shelf life had passed.
The dealings described by Chivers, who of course had to rely on indirectly reached conclusions for some of the narrative he has established, seem to have involved much corruption. Swiss, Czech and other arms dealers, some apparently with "girls of theirs" at their disposal whom they can dispatch to make a corrupt partner happy, Cyprus-based and other shell companies through which kickbacks can be arranged to line the pockets of defence officials and politicians here and there, seem to have been part of the story according to Chivers' article.
For a bit of relaxation now I'll re-read some of John Le Carré's The Night Manager. Escaping to the safe world of fiction you know.

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