According to a new Congressional report, American reconstruction investment in Afghanistan is being misused. SIGAR, the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction, is alleging nearly $14.5 million U.S. taxpayer funds have been misused through a mixture of theft, missing timesheets, misfiling of reconstruction awards, misuse of entertainment expenses, and a host of other methods.
Additional undisclosed losses were caused by the Afghan National Police's use of "ghost workers" who never showed up to their jobs, and canceled USAID contracts.
This misuse of taxpayer funds wasn't 100% Afghan—the SIGAR report specifically called out U.S. military service members, contractors, and civilians for suspected crimes alongside Afghan citizens.
The allegedly misspent $14.5 million comes out of a larger sum of $75.3 million that was examined.
Fast Company recently published an exhaustive on-the-ground reporting piece detailing the reconstruction effort in Afghanistan and various leadership lessons offered by the U.S. Army. While the new report, which was released today, comes from the independent SIGAR office, its implications for both American taxpayers and the military are damning.
"During my visit to Afghanistan this quarter, I toured the forward operating base at the Torkham Gate Border Crossing on the border with Pakistan. About 80% of Afghanistan’s customs revenues are reportedly collected at this crossing, the country’s busiest. I was told that when U.S. mentors and observers are not present, revenue collection falls," says Special Inspector General John F. Sopko. The implication is that customs fraud was taking place when American representatives were off-site.
SIGAR's report to Congress, which was released today, follows three other highly critical reports the agency released over the past few weeks. The inspector general's other reports allege that USAID hasn't given proper oversight to water projects in Afghanistan (PDF), that Afghanistan's border custom posts are inefficient and corrupt, and that the State Department has issued 70% of its allocated development funds to one contractor. That contractor, DynCorp, has a long history of questionable outcomes in Afghanistan. DynCorp employees were also alleged in a WikiLeak document to have procured child prostitutes for Afghan government officials.
Although President Barack Obama famously declared that the Afghan war would end in 2014, the Pentagon's budget indicates that American troops and military contractors are expected to stay in the landlocked country. Bloomberg News obtained an internal email from Pentagon budget planners indicating that the Defense Department believes that U.S. troops will likely remain in Afghanistan. The Pentagon has prepared three military budgets for 2015 based on the assumptions that 10,000, 5,000, or no American troops will remain in the country.