A staggering $19 billion spent by the U.S. government to reconstruct Afghanistan has been lost to fraud, waste, and abuse in the last decade and that only includes a portion of the money allocated by Congress for the cause. In 90% of the cases examined in a new federal audit, the money was blown “carelessly, extravagantly, or to no purpose.” This month the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) published a troubling report that analyzes less than half of the U.S. budget for the initiative, $63 billion in projects. As of December 2019, Congress has appropriated $134 billion for Afghanistan reconstruction, which began roughly a year after the U.S. invaded the Islamic nation to destroy Al-Qaeda and eradicate the Taliban.
Afghanistan reconstruction has been a huge and well-chronicled debacle that continues fleecing American taxpayers nearly two decades after its inception. Judicial Watch has reported on the various boondoggles over the years, most of them documented in tremendous detail by the SIGAR. Highlights include the mysterious disappearance of nearly half a billion dollars in oil destined for the Afghan National Army, a $335 million Afghan power plant that is seldom used and an $18.5 million renovation for a prison that remains unfinished and unused years after the U.S.-funded work began. Over the summer, the U.S. government got slammed in an audit for spending tens of millions of dollars on useless and ineffective drug addiction programs in Afghanistan as part of the reconstruction effort. In a scathing report, the SIGAR blasts the U.S. for not knowing the impact of its investment and failing to conduct site visits to project locations or maintain required files or records.
The latest probe is especially impactful because it takes a comprehensive look at projects over a lengthier period. The 19-page report is littered with a multitude of examples of waste that should outrage every taxpaying American. For instance, books provided for an education program have never been used because they are in poor condition and an empty sports stadium that is unlikely to ever be used because it was not designed correctly to host soccer games and does not have a functioning irrigation system. Investigators also found poor workmanship and a lack of maintenance, including falling ceiling tiles, broken drainage grates, and unlevelled playing surfaces with incomplete water systems protruding from the empty soccer field. A $5.2 million Kang Border Patrol headquarters compound has never been utilized and is not being maintained despite being allocated maintenance funds. The outrageous list of examples goes on and on throughout the lengthy document.
A section on fraud includes cases of crimes involving federal procurement and contract fraud as well as theft, corruption, bribery of government employees and public officials. The SIGAR identifies 30 instances of procurement and contract fraud with a total value of more than $296 million. Examples include a translator with U.S. Special Forces who started a trucking and logistics company that paid $140,000 in bribes and gratuities to U.S. service members to assist him in obtaining work. In another instance a contractor committed millions of dollars in fraud involving food service deals affecting the U.S. Central Command. Investigators also exposed a ring in which individuals were for years fraudulently selling U.S. Embassy Kabul meal cards. This resulted in the U.S. government losing between $50,000 and $80,000 monthly for a total of $3 million. Investigators also found that in the last two years alone, more than $3 billion was lost to fraud or corruption.
“Endemic corruption, widespread insecurity, and a lack of accountability over on-budget assistance continue to make any investments made in Afghanistan vulnerable to waste, fraud and abuse and may threaten the peace process as well as the perceived legitimacy and effectiveness of the Afghan government,” the new SIGAR report states. On a positive note, the inspector general’s work has resulted in about $3.2 billion in savings for the U.S. taxpayer. “Based on our audit recommendations, we identified approximately half of this savings, or $1.6 billion, as funds that agencies, such as the DOD or the Department of State (State), could put to better use for other programs or efforts,” according to the watchdog.