Afghanistan War Strategy Facing 'Serious' Setbacks

An assignment to an apartment is highly prized, and is offered as an incentive to employees who volunteer for a two-year tour in Kabul, the report explained.

At the time of the inspections, the embassy had presented a request for an additional 307 U.S. direct-hires for fiscal years 2010 and 2011. According to the special representative's office, those numbers have been revised, and could perhaps be even higher than 307.

Besides a shortage of resources, a lack of planning by the administration threatens to hinder success of the surge.

"Because the [State] Department committed to complete the first phase of this plus up before the end of 2009 with a second phase to begin in early 2010, new staff is arriving in Afghanistan before the embassy can prepare position descriptions, ready housing, and office space, or adequate on-site supervision for the subject-matter experts (3161s), many of whom have never worked in the government," the report stated.

And while some of these civilians oversee implementation of grants and development projects across Afghanistan, "the deteriorating security situation in many areas of the country limits the embassy staff 's exposure to Afghans other than regular government interlocutors and constrains the reporting and advocacy work that U.S. direct-hires from all agencies were brought to Afghanistan to undertake," the report said.

Traveling outside the embassy or outside of a military base can be onerous, requiring about 15 to 16 military personnel and three to four armored vehicles.

Report Cites Lack of Communication, Coordination

Furthermore, the 131-page report describes a lack of communication and coordination between civilians deployed to provincial reconstruction teams (PRTs) outside of Kabul, and members of the embassy in Kabul, resulting in poor reporting back to the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan in Washington, D.C. The report also described a lack of communication and coordination between the special representative's office and the Kabul embassy.

Exacerbating this lack of communication and coordination are one-year deployment terms, the report said. The lengths -- which include at least two "rest and relaxation" breaks -- are so brief that they disrupt continuity in policy and project implementation, many of which take more than one year to complete.

"Because the majority of assignments to Kabul are for only one year with multiple R&R breaks, most U.S. staff spend approximately two months of their one-year tours on leave. The one-year assignment scenario limits the development of expertise, contributes to a lack of continuity, requires a higher number of officers to achieve the administration's strategic goals, and results in what one former ambassador calls 'an institutional lobotomy,'" the report said.

The report also cited lack of qualified personnel, such as in the political affairs section.

"The biggest challenge facing the [PAS] section is the combination of one-year tours, inexperienced officers, and simultaneous rotation of all personnel," the report concluded. "As the inspection began, no officer had been in the job for longer than two months. Almost all except the counselor and deputy were on their first political reporting tour. Many had not received a hand-over memo from their predecessor, and most did not receive an orientation to the section's work although they did receive the mission's overall administrative orientation."

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