October 19, 2021

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Former Taliban Commander Charged with Killing American Troops in 2008

12 min read
<div>A federal grand jury in New York unsealed a superseding indictment today charging an Afghanistan national with federal terrorism-related offenses spanning approximately 2007 to 2009 and stemming from his role as a Taliban commander in Afghanistan.</div>
A federal grand jury in New York unsealed a superseding indictment today charging an Afghanistan national with federal terrorism-related offenses spanning approximately 2007 to 2009 and stemming from his role as a Taliban commander in Afghanistan.

More from: October 7, 2021

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  • Military Lodging: DOD Should Provide Congress with More Information on Army’s Privatization and Better Guidance to the Military Services
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found Since privatizing its domestic on-base hotels, referred to as lodging, the Army has made a variety of improvements, including the replacement of lodging facilities with newly constructed hotels (see fig.). However, improvements have taken longer than initially anticipated, development plans have changed, and the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) has not included key information about these delays and changes in reports to Congress. If OSD were to provide this additional information, Congress would be better able to determine whether the Privatized Army Lodging (PAL) program has achieved its intended objectives or fully consider whether the other military services should privatize their respective lodging programs. Room at an Army Lodging Facility before Privatizing and Room at the New Candlewood Suites Hotel Built at Yuma Proving Ground, AZ, in 2013 The Army does not estimate cost savings from the PAL program, but instead produces an annual cost avoidance estimate to demonstrate some of the financial benefits resulting from the privatization of its lodging program. Army officials stated that they calculate cost avoidance by comparing the room rate it charges for its lodging—which is limited to 75 percent of the average local lodging per diem rate across its installations—to the maximum lodging per diem that could be charged for that location. However, by using this approach, the Army is likely overstating its cost avoidance, because off-base hotels do not always charge 100 percent of per diem. Until the Army evaluates the methodology it uses to calculate its cost avoidance, decision makers in the Department of Defense (DOD) and Congress cannot be sure that the reported financial benefits of privatization have actually been achieved. OSD's oversight of lodging programs has been limited in some cases. First, OSD and the military services lack standardized data that would be useful for making informed decisions about the lodging programs. Second, DOD requires both servicemembers and civilian employees to stay in on-base lodging when on official travel, with some exceptions. Yet, according to OSD, many travelers are staying in off-base lodging, and OSD has not done the in-depth analysis needed to determine why and how much it is costing the government. Without an analysis that assesses the extent to which travelers are inappropriately using off-base lodging and why it is occurring, as well as a plan to address any issues identified, neither DOD nor Congress can be sure that the department is making the most cost-effective use of taxpayer funds. Why GAO Did This Study In 2009, the Army began to privatize its lodging with the goal of addressing the poor condition of facilities more quickly than could be achieved under continued Army operation. The Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force currently have no plans to privatize their lodging programs. The Senate Armed Services Committee report accompanying a bill for the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act included a provision for GAO to review improvements made to Army lodging, among other things. This report examines the extent to which (1) the Army has improved its lodging facilities since privatizing; (2) OSD reported complete information about the Army's development plans to Congress; (3) the Army has reliably determined any cost savings or cost avoidance as a result of its privatized lodging program; and (4) there are limitations in OSD's oversight of the military services' lodging programs. GAO reviewed policies and guidance; analyzed lodging program data for fiscal years 2017 through 2019 (the 3 most recent years of complete and available information); and interviewed DOD officials.
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  • Global War on Terrorism: Observations on Funding, Costs, and Future Commitments
    In U.S GAO News
    After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the President announced a Global War on Terrorism (GWOT), requiring the collective instruments of the entire federal government to counter the threat of terrorism. Ongoing military and diplomatic operations overseas, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan, constitute a key part of GWOT. These operations involve a wide variety of activities such as combating insurgents, civil affairs, capacity building, infrastructure reconstruction, and training military forces of other nations. The U.S. has reported substantial costs to date for GWOT related activities and can expect to incur significant costs for an unspecified time in the future, requiring decision makers to consider difficult trade-offs as the nation faces increasing long-range fiscal challenges. GAO has issued several reports on current and future financial commitments required to support GWOT military operations, as well as diplomatic efforts to stabilize and rebuild Iraq. This testimony discusses (1) the funding Congress has appropriated to the Department of Defense (DOD) and other U.S. government agencies for GWOT-related military operations and reconstruction activities since 2001; (2) costs reported for these operations and activities and the reliability of DOD's reported costs, and (3) issues with estimating future U.S. financial commitments associated with continued involvement in GWOT.Since 2001, Congress has appropriated about $430 billion to DOD and other government agencies for military and diplomatic efforts in support of GWOT. This funding has been provided through regular appropriations as well as supplemental appropriations, which are provided outside of the normal budget process. Since September 2001, DOD has received about $386 billion for GWOT military operations. In addition, agencies including the Department of State, DOD, and the Agency for International Development have received since 2001 about $44 billion to fund reconstruction and stabilization programs in Iraq ($34.5 billion) and Afghanistan ($9 billion) and an additional $400 million to be used in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Since 2001, U.S. government agencies have reported significant costs associated with GWOT, but GAO has concerns with the reliability of DOD's reported cost data. Through April 2006, DOD has reported about $273 billion in incremental costs for GWOT-related operations overseas--costs that would not otherwise have been incurred. DOD's reported GWOT costs and appropriated amounts differ generally because DOD's cost reporting does not capture some items such as intelligence and Army modular force transformation. Also, DOD has not yet used funding made available for multiple years, such as procurement and military construction. GAO's prior work found numerous problems with DOD's processes for recording and reporting GWOT costs, including long-standing deficiencies in DOD's financial management systems and business processes, the use of estimates instead of actual cost data, and the lack of adequate supporting documentation. As a result, neither DOD nor the Congress reliably know how much the war is costing and how appropriated funds are being used or have historical data useful in considering future funding needs. GAO made several recommendations to improve the reliability and reporting of GWOT costs. In addition to reported costs for military operations, U.S. agencies have obligated about $23 billion of $30 billion received for Iraqi reconstruction and stabilization, as of January 2006. U.S commitments to GWOT will likely involve the continued investment of significant resources, requiring decision makers to consider difficult trade-offs as the nation faces increasing fiscal challenges in the years ahead; however, predicting future costs is difficult as they depend on several direct and indirect cost variables. For DOD, these include the extent and duration of military operations, force redeployment plans, and the amount of damaged or destroyed equipment needed to be repaired or replaced. Future cost variables for other U.S. government agencies include efforts to help form governments and build capable and loyal security forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, and meet the healthcare needs of veterans, including providing future disability payments and medical services.
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  • Afghanistan and Iraq: DOD Should Improve Adherence to Its Guidance on Open Pit Burning and Solid Waste Management
    In U.S GAO News
    From the start of military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, the U.S. military and its contractors have burned solid waste in open burn pits on or near military bases. According to the Department of Defense (DOD), burn pit emissions can potentially harm human health. U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) guidance directs the military's use of burn pits, and the Department of Veterans' Affairs (VA) provides healthcare and other benefits to veterans and their families. GAO was asked to report on the (1) extent of open pit burning in Afghanistan and Iraq, and whether the military has followed its guidance; (2) alternatives to burn pits, and whether the military has examined them; and (3) extent of efforts to monitor air quality and potential health impacts. GAO visited four burn pits in Iraq, reviewed DOD data on burn pits, and consulted DOD and VA officials and other experts. GAO was unable to visit burn pits in Afghanistan.The military has relied heavily on open pit burning in both conflicts, and operators of burn pits have not always followed relevant guidance to protect servicemembers from exposure to harmful emissions. According to DOD, U.S. military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq generate about 10 pounds of solid waste per soldier each day. The military has relied on open pit burning to dispose of this waste mainly because of its expedience. In August 2010, CENTCOM estimated there were 251 burn pits in Afghanistan and 22 in Iraq. CENTCOM officials said the number of burn pits is increasing in Afghanistan and decreasing in Iraq, which reflects U.S. troop reallocations and efforts to install waste incinerators. Despite its reliance on burn pits, CENTCOM did not issue comprehensive burn pit guidance until 2009. Furthermore, to varying degrees, operators of burn pits at four bases GAO visited in Iraq were not complying with key elements of this guidance, such as restrictions on the burning of items, including plastic, that produce harmful emissions. DOD officials also said that, from the start of each conflict, operators routinely burned items that are now prohibited. The continued burning of prohibited items has resulted from a number of factors, including the constraints of combat operations, resource limitations, and contracts with burn pit operators that do not reflect current guidance. Waste management alternatives could decrease the reliance on and exposure to burn pits, but DOD has been slow to implement alternatives or fully evaluate their benefits and costs, such as avoided future costs of potential health effects. Various DOD guidance documents discourage long-term use of burn pits, encourage the use of incinerators and landfills, or encourage waste minimization such as source reduction. DOD has installed 39 solid waste incinerators in Iraq and 20 in Afghanistan, and plans to install additional incinerators in Afghanistan. To date, source reduction practices have not been widely implemented in either country and recycling consists primarily of large scrap metals. DOD plans to increase recycling at its bases in Iraq, but recycling at bases in Afghanistan has been limited. Further, DOD has not fully analyzed its waste stream in either country and lacks the information to decrease the toxicity of its waste stream and enhance waste minimization. U.S. Forces in Afghanistan and Iraq do not sample or monitor burn pit emissions as provided by a key CENTCOM regulation, and the health impacts of burn pit exposure on individuals are not well understood, partly because the military does not collect required data on emissions or exposures from burn pits. Army public health officials have, however, sampled the ambient air at bases in each conflict and found high levels of particle pollution that causes health problems but is not unique to burn pits. These officials identified logistical and other challenges in monitoring burn pit emissions, and U.S. Forces have yet to establish pollutant monitoring systems. DOD and VA have commissioned studies to enhance their understanding of burn pit emissions, but the lack of data on emissions specific to burn pits and related exposures limit efforts to characterize potential health impacts on service personnel, contractors, and host-country nationals. Among other things, GAO recommends that the Secretary of Defense improve DOD's adherence to relevant guidance on burn pit operations and waste management, and analyze alternatives to its current practices. In commenting on a draft of this report, DOD said that it concurred with five of the six recommendations and partially concurred with the sixth. GAO addressed a DOD suggestion to clarify the sixth recommendation. VA reviewed the draft report and had no comments.
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  • Human Trafficking: Monitoring and Evaluation of International Projects Are Limited, but Experts Suggest Improvements
    In U.S GAO News
    Human trafficking--a worldwide crime involving the exploitation of men, women, and children for others' financial gain--is a violation of human rights. Victims are often lured or abducted and forced to work in involuntary servitude. Since 2001, the U.S. government has provided about $447 million to combat global human trafficking. As GAO previously reported, estimates of the number of trafficking victims are questionable. In this report, GAO examines (1) collaboration among organizations involved in international antitrafficking efforts, (2) U.S. government monitoring of antitrafficking projects and difficulties in evaluating these projects, and (3) suggestions for strengthening monitoring and evaluation. GAO analyzed agency documents; convened an expert panel; interviewed officials; and conducted fieldwork in Indonesia, Thailand, and Mexico.While governments, international organizations, and nongovernmental organizations have recognized the importance of collaborating and have established some coordination mechanisms and practices, they will need to overcome challenges that have impeded collaboration in the past for their efforts to be successful. In two of the three countries GAO visited, it found that host governments--which bear ultimate responsibility for combating trafficking within their borders--have passed national antitrafficking laws and enacted national action plans. However, organizations continue to face numerous challenges when collaborating to combat human trafficking, including varying levels of government commitment and capacity. For example, some governments treat foreign trafficking victims as illegal immigrants and deport rather than protect them. In addition, according to officials in two of the three countries GAO visited, the ministries responsible for coordinating antitrafficking efforts have limited authority and capacity. U.S. government-funded antitrafficking projects often lack some important elements that allow projects to be monitored, and little is known about project impact due to difficulties in conducting evaluations. Project documents GAO reviewed generally include monitoring elements, such as an overarching goal and related activities, but often lack other monitoring elements, such as targets for measuring performance. To oversee projects, State officials supplement their efforts with assistance from U.S. embassy staff, but have not established written guidance for oversight. Officials said that they are working to improve performance measures and develop monitoring guidance. Conducting impact evaluations of antitrafficking projects is difficult due to several factors, including questionable project-level estimates of the number of trafficking victims. These estimates are needed for baselines by which to evaluate how effectively specific interventions are reducing trafficking. Elements in the design of certain projects, such as objectives that are too broad, further impede evaluation. Because of these difficulties, few impact evaluations have been completed, and little is known about the impact of antitrafficking interventions. A GAO-convened panel of experts identified and discussed ways to address the factors that make it difficult to monitor and evaluate antitrafficking projects. Panelists' suggested approaches included improving information on the nature and severity of trafficking and addressing monitoring and evaluation in project design. To improve information on trafficking, panelists suggested methods that have been used to sample other hard-to-reach populations, including domestic violence victims. One suggested method is sampling of "hot spots"--an intensive search for victims in areas known to have high concentrations of victims. To address weaknesses in project design that impede monitoring and evaluation, panelists suggested that officials design projects that clearly link activities to intended outcomes, identify measurable indicators, and establish procedures for setting and modifying targets.
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  • Business Executive Pleads Guilty in Conduit Campaign Contribution Case
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    A California business executive pleaded guilty today in the District of Columbia for conspiring to make and conceal conduit and excessive campaign contributions during the U.S. presidential election in 2016 and thereafter.
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