Title: An lmpossible Situation
Author: Barbara Spier
Spier, Barbara (2013) and Del Spier. An lmpossible Situation: A True Story of Patriotism, Dedication, And Retribution While Helping America Rebuild Afghanistan. Charleston, SC: Advantage
DS371.4 .S728 2013
- Postwar reconstruction–Afghanistan.
- Internal security–Afghanistan.
- Government contractors–Afghanistan.
- Private military companies–Afghanistan.
Date Posted: October 7, 2015
The first part of the book sets the stage with a recap of US policy in Afghanistan in the early 2000s and the author’s professional history.
Del Spier, a professional law enforcement senior manager and corporate security executive set out to form his own security consulting corporation along with his wife Barbara in his later years. He was head-quartered in Texas and had already completed some short term foreign and domestic contracts. In 2002, he was in Afghanistan providing a short term consultancy for a construction contractor. While there he bid on a contract with USAID in Afghanistan, fully expecting to be passed over.
However, in 2003 Del was notified that he had been awarded the contract to provide security services for USAID development projects. It did come to his attention that he was awarded the contract after several other large firms had refused to bid. Red flag number one for Del.
Del, in meetings with US Embassy and USAID officials pointed out certain legal restrictions arising from congressional action in 1972 concerning the training and equipping of foreign law enforcement personnel with USAID funds. However, he was repeatedly assured that these barriers would be overcome.
Del had advised the US Embassy if they could not overcome the matter of supplying funds for training and equipment, that he, Del, should pack his bags and go home. To that the Ambassador Dobbins then. stated, “No, you won’t”. Del presumed the positive in that these restrictions would be overcome; red flag number two for Del.
Much of the middle of the book relates to his efforts to develop a viable security organization that once numbered almost 5,000 individuals, almost all Afghans. His and Barbara’s efforts to develop rapport with Afghan officials, Afghan employees and understanding of and applying the culture as well as documented incidents, some life threatening, are described in detail.
His problems with the inability of USAID to provide funds for the training and equipping of Afghan personnel continued to mount. These were Ministry of lnterior personnel who were on loan to Del’s project to provide security for the Kabul to Kanduhar road. The choice of Ministry of Interior personnel was a demand by USAID even in the face of legal restrictions. Many had no training, no weapons and ammunition was in short supply. Even though they were involved in firefights, USAID was still unable to provide the appropriate funds for equipment and training.
It was as though Embassy and USAID personnel were playing ostrich—hiding their heads so as to not see the problem. For Del and Barbara Spier the US Mission had certainly set them up in an impossible situation, violate legal restrictions or quit and be sued for breach of contract. Red flag number three for the Spiers.
Some time later Del decided to apply an improvisation in order to procure funds by which his Afghan employee could purchase equipment locally for his Afghan security personnel attached to the Ministry of Interior. He more or less applied the USMC motto—Adapt, Improvise and Overcome. His subsequent operational successes and commendations are noted in detail as well as his administrative failures in dealing with the US Embassy and USAID personnel.
His improvisation was not unique and almost innocently applied. While the security personnel were better equipped and Del did not profit himself, some USAID auditors took exception to his procedures. Del then found himself in a three year protracted and bizarre legal battle with an uncompromising group of auditors and federal attorneys. The US government bureaucrats became so embroiled with some functionaries becoming downright fiery tempered and angry that it appears as though they lost the ability to reason degrees of right from wrong. Government bureaucrats refused negotiations, adjusted, manipulated and changed data in an effort to imprison the Spiers and others who had no knowledge of Del’s improvisation.
However, the auditors and prosecutors for the government did not count on a federal judge who would ultimately apply the degrees of right versus wrong plus, as the judge described the situation into which the Spiers had been thrust, “ … a totally impossible situation,” in coming to a decision. The real-life adventure ends with a twisted and unexpected ending to an exciting, frustrating and finally unrewarded experience from 2002 to 2010.