- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The U.S. military in Afghanistan spent $32 million to prevent Improvised Explosive Device attacks after more than 600 troops were killed, but brass has no proof the pricey effort was effective — or even implemented.

A shocking investigation by the top U.S. watchdog in Afghanistan discovered the military doesn’t know if the anti-IED devices are functioning or were even installed.

These “culvert denial systems” are supposed to safeguard U.S. troops and Afghan civilians from the explosive devises, but a report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction said “it is unclear whether or not culvert denial systems are functioning or, in some cases, where even installed.”

The IG already found two Afghan contractors who billed the U.S. government $1 million for the installation of 250 such devices, but then never completed the work or did it haphazardly.

There are at least 2,500 places where the prevention devices were supposed to be installed, the IG said, but a lack of documentation and oversight means no one’s certain if they ever actually were.

“It is important to know where culvert denial systems have been installed and what condition they are in to prevent any further loss of life from the placement of IEDs in roadside culverts,” the report said.

SEE ALSO: 3 Americans killed in IED attack in Afghanistan

An estimated 600 U.S. troops have been killed, and almost 5,000 wounded from IED explosions in Afghanistan since 2001, according to data from the Pentagon and the think-tank Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“The loss of life because individuals were not doing their job is horrific and unacceptable,: said John Sopko, special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction. “This case shows so clearly that fraud can kill in Afghanistan. We will find out if contracting officers did not do their job and if that proves to be true and Americans have died, we will hold those individuals accountable.”

IEDs are cheap and relatively inexpensive bombs to make and have become a favorite of terrorists. The Defense Department said the number of events involving IEDs in Afghanistan has almost doubled since 2009 – reaching 17,000 incidents.

Culvert denial systems are a range of devices used to deny terrorists access to culverts – pipes and tunnels used to channel water under roadways, and a favorite hiding spot for IEDs. The denial systems, from metal grates to more advanced devices, block entry to the pipes, but still allow water to flow. Prices to install the systems range from $800 to $6,500, the IG said.

• Phillip Swarts can be reached at pswarts@washingtontimes.com.

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