The E-Ring

U.S. Army rapped for building firetraps for Afghan army

SIGAR strikes again. The top U.S. watchdog overseeing how taxpayer money is being spent rebuilding Afghanistan after a decade at war has found no shortage of problems that have arisen from mixing billions of American dollars with “Afghan good enough” oversight. Now in an April 4 letter, John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghan ...

Photo by Matthew Hannen/USAF/Getty Images
Photo by Matthew Hannen/USAF/Getty Images

SIGAR strikes again. The top U.S. watchdog overseeing how taxpayer money is being spent rebuilding Afghanistan after a decade at war has found no shortage of problems that have arisen from mixing billions of American dollars with “Afghan good enough” oversight. Now in an April 4 letter, John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction, blasted the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for knowingly continuing to build more than 1,000 structures for the Afghan army that are virtual firetraps.

Sopko says in the letter to Lt. Gen. Thomas Bostick, commanding general of the Corps, that he has issued field commanders an “urgent safety alert” because the Corps, it claims, has decided to keep building Afghan buildings “in a manner that can pose a serious fire and life safety risk. More than 1,000 structures in southern Afghanistan alone could be at risk due to construction with non-compliant foam insulation and thermal barrier systems.”

The buildings in question are known as K-span structures, the familiar arched metal buildings that dot military installations across the country. Three of buildings have caught fire while still under construction, prompting Sopko to recommend contractors station a fire watcher on construction sites in between work shifts.

The Corps is aware that the materials do not meet international standards, Sopko notes in his letter, but instead of halting construction or finding better materials, it has told contractors to “proceed with the materials that have been previously approved and that are currently on site.”

“We are requesting you to immediately reconsider the decision to continue using IBC non-compliant insulation foam and thermal barrier systems for K-Span facilities currently under construction. Please report to us once this has been done,” Sopko wrote.

Sopko said his office has started a full investigation and copied his letter to Central Command’s Gen. Lloyd Austin and ISAF commander Gen. Joseph Dunford.

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