US goes high-tech to help oversee Afghan aid work

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Faced with the drawdown of American troops in Afghanistan, the top U.S. aid agency wants to step up its use of smartphones, satellite imagery and GPS cameras to oversee tax-funded development projects that U.S. aid workers can't visit.

The U.S. Agency for International Development will be seeking bids on a new contract — worth up to $170 million — that aims to combine existing monitoring work with increased use of high-tech tools. USAID must satisfy lawmakers and others who have criticized the agency for weak oversight in the past.

Since 2001, USAID has spent $12 billion on development projects in Afghanistan.

The special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction says that the troop drawdown will leave only about a fifth of the country accessible to U.S. civilian workers.

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