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Expresses concern about civilian coordinator’s lack of oversight authority to General Petraeus

(Washington, D.C.) – Amid mounting reports of reconstruction dollars fueling corruption throughout Afghanistan, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) today questioned whether a key official charged with coordinating and bringing greater accountability to international assistance efforts is sufficiently empowered to execute his job.  At a Senate Armed Services committee hearing, Shaheen asked General David Petraeus (Commander of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan) and Michele Flournoy (Under Secretary of Defense for Policy) for their assessment of the success of the NATO Senior Civilian Representative for Afghanistan in curbing waste, fraud, and abuse of assistance funds in Afghanistan. 

The Representative position (to which British Ambassador Simon Gass was recently appointed) was established to provide a civilian counterpart to the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan in January 2010.  Shaheen and Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urging its creation.

“Having taken steps to unify the command structure in Afghanistan on the military side, the idea behind the Representative was to bring the same coherence to the civilian presence there,” Shaheen said.  “But as reports about the gross misuse of reconstruction funds continue to roll in, I’m concerned the Representative lacks appropriate authority to direct action on the ground.”

Flournoy agreed that the civilian commitment in Afghanistan still needs to be strengthened, especially with the military effort there creating momentum.

“I think there we're struggling to get the resources and to fully achieve the coherence that I think is necessary to make and to consolidate the gains,” she said.

As part of her ongoing efforts to eliminate government waste, Shaheen has actively called for closer oversight of assistance funds in Afghanistan.  In her January 2010 letter to Secretary Clinton, Shaheen pointed to the fact that $60 billion from over 50 different international donors had been pledged to Afghanistan efforts, requiring a strong civilian coordinator to guard against their misuse.  In January 2011, Shaheen wrote to President Obama seeking a dramatic overhaul of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), following audits that found significant accounts of ineffectual spending in its Commanders' Emergency Response Program (CERP).