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Afghanistan Watchdog Resigns

By Politico, Politico - January 11, 2011

Amid mounting scrutiny from elected officials of both parties, Major Gen. Arnold Fields has resigned from his post leading the office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, the White House announced Monday night.Fields, a 34-year military veteran, was appointed by President George W. Bush as inspector general for the office, known as SIGAR, in April 2008. But since then, congressional patience has been running thin with the mounting reports of rampant corruption with contracts awarded in Afghanistan and his office’s apparent failure to investigate them. A White House statement announcing Fields’ resignation — notably lacking a statement from President Barack Obama himself — said that under Fields’ tenure, “SIGAR produced numerous critical reports that have improved reconstruction efforts, and helped insure that U.S.-funded programs are achieving their objectives.”The statement continues that “the president and the American people owe him a debt of gratitude” for his service, as he moves on to “new challenges.” In September, a bipartisan group of senators, including Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), wrote that the administration should have done more to hold the agency accountable for overseeing federal contracting funds in Afghanistan. “It has been clear for several months that SIGAR's mission is not being served effectively,” they wrote. “We urge you to act now.”And in a November congressional hearing, Democratic and Republican senators lit into Fields and sharply criticized SIGAR for failing to investigate the nearly $56 billion in grants, and hundreds of contracts, that the United States has awarded for the purpose of community development in Afghanistan."I just want you to follow the money," said Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.). "I want to know if there's any bribes or payoffs going on."Last week, Fields attempted to stem some criticism being levied on his organization by firing its top two deputies, and calling for “new blood” in high level positions.Gordon Lubold contributed to this report.

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