Overseas Civilian Contractors

News and issues relating to Civilian Contractors working Overseas

Linda Norgrove, An aid worker’s courageous success

By Trudy Rubin at the Philadelphia Inquirer

Inquirer Opinion Columnist

Linda Norgrove’s approach was risky – and effective.
n April, I traveled around eastern Afghanistan with an extraordinary British aid worker, Linda Norgrove. I have a photo of her dressed in a long, black skirt and loose tunic, her hair under an enveloping shawl, as she stood beside several Afghan elders. I recall the respect those grizzled men showed her as she discussed their new crops, which had replaced opium poppy fields.But hard-line militants, who couldn’t care less about Afghan farmers, kidnapped Norgrove two weeks ago as she drove to the site of an irrigation project in Kunar province. She was killed during an attempted rescue by U.S. special forces last week. She was 36 years old. 

There’s an ongoing investigation into whether Linda was accidentally killed by her American rescuers, and the debate over whether she could have been freed through negotiations rather than military action. I may have more to say about this later, but that’s not what I want to write about now.

I think it’s more important that people know about Linda’s commitment and courage, and why the project she directed produced results while so many Western aid projects fail.

I traveled to Jalalabad to visit Linda’s program, which was run by the U.S.-based contractor DAI and funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, because I’d heard it was totally focused on Afghans. At the time, Linda was deputy director, preparing to take the reins of the $150 million program to improve Afghan agriculture.

There were only two expatriates on the project (and only one after Linda took over) directing 200 Afghan staff, including engineers, architects, and agronomists. Linda lived in a rented Afghan villa, a two-story home with a walled garden, as is common in Afghan cities. Dressed like an ordinary Afghan woman, she traveled in a car without extensive security or a military escort.

Yes, this was risky. But living outside protected compounds and military bases allowed Linda to establish relationships with village elders, who in turn protected the projects. As her colleague Jonathan Greenham noted, “Arriving with several Humvees is not the best way to drink tea with folks.”

I saw the results of these relationships. As we stood by the Shamshapoor bridge outside Jalalabad, Afghan elders explained that a previous bridge had been washed away because a foreign contractor didn’t know the river could rise five feet in a few hours.  Read more here

October 14, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties, NATO, USAID | , , , | Leave a comment

DAI Afghanistan Terminates Several Afghan Employees for Allegedly Soliciting Kickbacks

Note:  This is just a CYA Press Release from USAID not a statement from DAI, Development Alternatives Inc.

WASHINGTON, June 16 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — This week in Kabul, Development Alternatives, Inc. (DAI) terminated 10 employees including several engineers and other staff members after months of investigation.  DAI Afghanistan is a contractor with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

USAID Inspector General Donald Gambatesa stated that the investigation involves Afghan staff members who allegedly approached owners of various companies bidding for subcontracts with DAI Afghanistan.  The individuals reportedly offered to help the companies win awards in exchange for a percentage of the total dollar value of the project.

Read the full press release here

June 16, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Corruption, Contractor Oversight, State Department | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment