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US goes high-tech to help oversee Afghan aid work

FILE - In this Feb. 28, 2103, file photo, Mark Feierstein, associate administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington. Faced with the ongoing exit of American troops from 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 aid workers no longer will be able to observe with their own eyes. USAID on Saturday, March 15, 2014, began seeking bids on a new monitoring project contract, which could cost up to $170 million. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)
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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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