Zabul Attack: Walking But Not Lost, More Details But Not Official; Plus Update on Kelly Hunt

On Friday, April 12, the AP citing a senior State Department “not authorized to speak to the news media” reported that the initial reports that members of the group were in vehicles, as well as subsequent media reports that they were lost, are incorrect.

The official reportedly provided the details on condition of anonymity.  This report contradicted the eyewitness account of an Afghan reporter cited by McClatchy news on Wednesday, April 10.

You may read the full AP report here.

Last weekend, The Skeptical Bureaucrat  (TSB) posted about this here:

It’s quite bad enough already, judging by the details that have come out so far. Let’s see … the book donation visit to the Sheik Baba Metti school by a team from the U.S. Embassy and PRT Zabul was announced to the press one day in advance. But, despite that lack of operational security, the team was allowed to walk to the school from the PRT’s base at FOB Smart rather than use protected vehicles. The roughly 100-meter long route to the school evidently wasn’t swept before the team’s walk, or blocked to traffic during the movement. The team’s military escort didn’t know which gate to use to enter the school – a school that the PRT itself funded and regularly visited – which required the team to double back to FOB Smart and further expose themselves to attack.

Lastly, the attack reportedly involved a roadside bomb as well as a suicide driver in a bomb-laden vehicle. If that’s true, it means that the Taliban were able to plant a command-detonated bomb in the street immediately outside FOB Smart despite the surveillance that street was undoubtedly under by both the U.S. and Afghan military.

There is reportedly an ongoing FBI investigation. The FBI investigates bombings in the U.S. and overseas where incidents were acts of terrorism against U.S. persons or interests. But this is the war zone. Was there also an FBI investigation on the suicide bombing that killed a USAID officer and wounded an FSO in Kunar Province last year? (Update: We’re told by a blog pal in Afghanistan that the FBI investigates a lot of different incidents in Afghanistan and that there is “nothing unusual” with them investigating the April 6 attack.  Was also asked about an ARB for Camp Bastion.  Camp is under military control so that’s a clear exception to ARB regs; nothing to keep DOD from pursuing its own inquiry but we haven’t heard anything moving on that direction. Read this piece by Rajiv Chandrasekaran on the Taliban attack that resulted in the deaths of two Marines and the largest loss of allied materiel in the 11-year-long Afghan war).

No way to tell right now if there will be an Accountability Review Board. As TSB pointed out, there is a limited exception for convening an ARB if the security incidents involving serious injury or loss of life occurs in Iraq or Afghanistan. We found an exemption for incidents between October 1, 2005-September 30, 2009. In December 2009, that exemption remained in effect through September 30, 2010.

Following the findings of “accountability” from the ARB on Benghazi, we are not holding our breath on an ARB on this latest incident. After not seeing any ARBs convened for several attacks on embassy properties with significant damages last year, we’re starting to think that an ARB in its current authority is not the best use of time/resources to assign accountability.

The notion that an ARB is convened to investigate security incidents that result in “serious injury, loss of life, or significant destruction of property” and then keep the result secret and the interviewees secret is absurd. Add to that the fact that the Secretary of State did not even convene an ARB for all the mob attacks last year which resulted in significant destruction of embassy properties, makes one think that the ARB on its present form is not as useful or effective as it should be.  It also leaves the recommendation on whether or not the Secretary of State should convene an ARB on the hands of the Permanent Coordinating Council in the State Department, staffed by people who answer to their chain of command.

So – we’d much rather see the FBI conduct these investigations.

Also last Thursday, Lt. Col. Justin Kraft, the Zabul Provincial Reconstruction Team commander released the following statement via FB:

We recently lost three of our nation’s finest warriors. They were sons, brothers, one was a father, and all were men who lived, served and died with honor. They gave to their country and their brothers and sisters in arms the last full measure of their courage. 

We are less for this loss. 

Please keep their families in your thoughts and prayers at this difficult time.

DOD identified the three soldiers killed in the April 6 attack but to-date the identity of the DOD civilian who perished in the same attack had not been released. Who was he/she? Did he/she leave behind a family?

On April 14, Staff Sgt. Chris Ward was buried at Oak Ridge. According to knoxnews.com, Maj. Gen. Jeffory Smith, commander of Fort Knox, Ky., presented  the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star to Ward’s mother. The passing of these casualties was heartbreaking  to their loved ones, fellow soldiers and largely ignored by the public. The death of  three  soldiers in the battlefield of Afghanistan … not much was said.

On April 18, knoxnews.com also reported that Kelly Hunt, the State Department employee wounded in the attack arrived earlier this week at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Washington.  Friends of Ms. Hunt at her home state are organizing a fund-raiser online to help the family.  You can check it out here. We have been looking but have not been able to find a contact email for the organizers.  The family Friends of Ms. Hunt have also put up a Facebook page – Kelly Hunt’s Road to Recovery , it includes updates from Dinah Hunt, Kelly’s mother.

 

— DS

 

Updated on April 22@1720 PST with info on ARB

Updated on April 22 @21:41 PST with FB page correction; page put up by friends not family.

 

 

 

 

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The Sad Saga of US Consulate Jeddah’s New Consulate Compound via USASpending.gov

We previously blogged about USCG Jeddah  (see 2005 Jeddah ARB Recommended “Remote Safe Areas” for Embassies – Upgrades Coming … Or Maybe Not and New US Consulate in Jeddah – Under Construction Since 2007?)

There was a December 6, 2004 terrorist attack on USCG Jeddah where gunmen killed four locally employed staff members and injured nine others working outside the consulate building. At least six months before that, a $319,197 contract was awarded for the Jeddah facility upgrade.

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On May 12, 2006, there was another attack on USCG Jeddah.  A number of shots were fired at the consulate compound but no casualties were reported.  Sixteen months after this attack and almost three years after the deadly 2004 attack, a $122,292,510 contract was awarded to Grunley Walsh for the design/build project in Jeddah.

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Ten months later, a $390,000 contract was also awarded to Grunley Walsh for the design/build project in Jeddah. The reason for the modification was for “funding only action” whatever that means.

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On February 11, 2009, the $122,205,676 contract with the Grunley Walsh Limited Liability Company was again modified. The reason indicated for modification was “change order.” USASpending data indicates that the current contract value at the time of modification was $19,000 with $122,205,676 obligated.

Grunley-Walsh was renamed Aurora-LLC after it was sold.  At least, by April 29, 2010, Grunley-Walsh had become Aurora-LLC because according to McClatchy News, Aurora-LLC lawyers at that time were then dealing with the State Department’s Bureau of Overseas Building Operations on its subcontractor issue with First Kuwaiti.

On May 10, 2010, Aurora was terminated from the Jeddah contract according to McClatchy News citing a State Department official, “after 90 percent of the contract period had expired, with only 54 percent of the work done.”

On November 18, 2010, Aurora LLC was mentioned in a letter from the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) to the White House questioning the independence of the State Department’s Inspector General.

As an aside — the website grunley-walsh.com is currently an online parking lot. Aurora-LLC is now a “page not found” although you can still find the cache version of the website here.  Findthecompany.com has an online snapshot of Aurora-LLC here showing $240 million in revenue in 2011.

The planned USCG Jeddah (image from state.gov/obo)

The planned USCG Jeddah (image from state.gov/obo)

We are unable to locate information on what happened to this project after the contract was reportedly terminated on May 10, 2010. We presumed incorrectly that there was another contractor after the contract was terminated in 2010; there does not appear to be one.  But two years and four months after that May 10, 2010 termination, there is a new contract and a new contractor.

On September 27, 2012, a $100,543,000 contract was awarded to American International Contractors, Inc.  While the USASpending page only states that this is for the construction of a New Consulate Compound in Saudi Arabia, the publicly available document on FDCD 2012 Fiscal Year OBO Capital Project Awards does indicate that SAQMMA-12-C-0221 for $100,543,000 is for the Jeddah NCC with an expected completion date of 24 months.

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So excluding the facility upgrade in 2004, it looks like the Jeddah NCC which has been on the planning/construction/hold/construction/delivery phase since 2007 now amounts to $233,225,510. We’re terrible at math, but it looks like this project is now years delayed and almost double the original contract.

In addition, this project has now spanned the tenures of three secretaries of state – Rice, Clinton, and Kerry. Neither the State Department’s Inspector General Office nor the oversight people in Congress appears terribly bothered by the delay or the expanded cost of this project.

If anyone has the stories beyond the paper trail, we’d like to hear about it.

Meanwhile, a trip down memory lane —

In 2005, then Secretary Condoleeza Rice said this:

[W]e will also make sure that the tremendous charge that we have to lead the diplomatic effort, to support those diplomatic efforts, to train people well, to make sure that people are safe and secure in the embassies, to make sure that our nationals abroad have access to us so that they can be secure in dangerous times, that those will be very high priorities. I know they are very high priorities for me. They are high priorities for the President, as well. We will do everything we can to make sure that we’ve got the resources that we need.

Then there’s Secretary Hillary Clinton who said this:

[P]lease know that nothing is more important to us than your safety, and making sure you have secure places to live and work is our top priority.

Current Secretary of State John Kerry said this not too long ago:

I guarantee you that, beginning this morning when I report for duty upstairs, everything I do will be focused on the security and safety of our people. 

 

Somebody please put Jeddah on his agenda.  Of course, we can’t expect the secretary of state to be hammering nails at wherever place, but all that talk  and years on this … it’s sad to see that  USCG Jeddah is still missing a new secure building and no one seems to be upset about it.

— DS

Correction: USASpending.gov not/not USASpending.com