Allegations of waste, fraud, and mismanagement in U.S.-backed efforts in Afghanistan are catching Congress's attention.
Since fiscal 2002, the United States has allocated more than $102 billion for relief and reconstruction projects in Afghanistan. And as the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction looks through that 11-digit spending bill, its reports suggest a pattern of misused funds.
The military is livid over SIGAR's reports, accusing it of missing the mark and even setting up its own "4 Phase Plan of Action to be 1st with the truth" aimed at defending its programs and point of view.
But thus far, it hasn't been enough to stave off calls for action from member of Congress, including Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., who said SIGAR's latest quarterly report "stresses the dire need for increased scrutiny and reforms" for U.S.-backed reconstruction projects in Afghanistan.
Here's are some of SIGAR's highlights:
$1.6 Billion: The amount of direct aid the U.S. Agency for International Development pledged to Afghanistan in 2013, according to a SIGAR report released at the end of last month. USAID agreed to give direct assistance to seven Afghan ministries despite determining that "it could not rely on the ministries it assessed to manage donor funds without a host of mitigation measures in place."
But a State Department spokesperson pushed back at the audit, noting that the aid has been reduced to $1.06 billion, and only $300 million has been disbursed "in large part because of the rigorous methodology employed in the implementation of the programs."
$486 Million: Twenty G222 aircraft were supposed to be given to the Afghan Air Force. Instead, the planes ended up at the Kabul International Airport where they will be stripped of military equipment and destroyed, according to a December letter from John Sopko, who oversees SIGAR. The planes got 234 of the required 4,500 flying hours, according to the SIGAR letter, notifying Pentagon leaders that it is launching an investigation.
$36 Million: The empty, newly constructed headquarter facilities at Camp Leatherneck is a well-documented example of potential government waste. Military officials have said that the building is unneeded, and under the White House's current plan the base will be closed by this time next year. But an Army investigation found that with additional funding and construction, U.S. service members could use the building. That report had an unintended consequence—it relaunched a SIGAR investigation.
$597,929: The amount paid to an Afghan contracting company to build a hospital in Salang, a village in northeastern Afghanistan. When SIGAR inspected the hospital, "staff … were washing newborns with untreated river water," according to the report, because there was no clean water. The contractors also didn't follow the contract requirements when building the hospital, creating "serious safety concerns" because of the frequency of earthquakes in that region of the country. The central command for U.S. forces in Afghanistan, however, responded to the SIGAR report with a defense of the hospital, calling it a "significant step forward in medical services for local Afghans."
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