- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 20, 2009

AFGHANISTAN

Training lacking, watchdog says

The U.S. military command that trains Afghan forces, a key part of Washington’s war strategy, lacks the capacity to oversee multimillion-dollar contracts it has awarded, a watchdog reported Tuesday.

The Combined Security Transition Command Afghanistan is responsible for programs worth about $15 billion to develop Afghan security forces so they can take over from U.S. and NATO troops in leading the fight against Taliban militants.

Yet the U.S. office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction found that the command had only one person in Afghanistan dedicated to overseeing a contract worth $404 million to provide training to Afghan police and soldiers.



The watchdog did not name the company fulfilling the contract, but the command, in a response to the report, said it was MPRI, an Alexandria, Va.-based firm founded by retired military leaders and owned by L-3 Communications.

AFGHANISTAN

Former U.S. official, may join Karzai team

A former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and Afghan-istan may take a high-level position in the Afghan government under a Britain-proposed plan, diplomats and American officials said Tuesday.

The ex-envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, a U.S. citizen who was born in Afghanistan, has been in discussions with Afghan President Hamid Karzai about a senior administrative job in Kabul that could be created to streamline various government functions, the officials said. Details of the proposed post have not been set, they added.

The diplomats and officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because Mr. Khalilzad’s possible role is still speculative. But they said Mr. Karzai had mentioned the idea during meetings with top aides to President Obama during a visit to Washington earlier this month.

The possibility of Mr. Khalil-zad taking a job in the Afghan government was first reported in the New York Times.

GAZA STRIP

Israel bombs Hamas tunnels

GAZA CITY | Israeli warplanes bombed a Hamas security outpost and tunnels by the Gaza border with Egypt on Tuesday, after a rocket fired from the coastal territory struck an Israeli town, Israeli and Hamas sources said.

Palestinian medics said a woman in Gaza suffered moderate wounds from one of several air strikes against tunnels that Israel says are used to smuggle weapons into the coastal territory.

Another raid targeted a Hamas outpost near a border fence with Israel, a Hamas source said. It was the first time that Israel has attacked the Islamic militant group since a Jan. 18 cease-fire went into effect after an Israeli offensive.

COLOMBIA

Senators allow for 3rd Uribe term

BOGOTA | Colombian senators Tuesday approved a proposed referendum on whether President Alvaro Uribe can run for re-election in 2010, taking the popular conservative one step closer to an unprecedented third term.

Mr. Uribe has still not said whether he will run and the re-election proposal must now go before a commission of lawmakers to resolve a dispute over whether its wording allows immediate re-election or only in 2014. The constitutional court must then approve it before any referendum later this year.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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