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.”
What We're Following See More »
Twenty-one states, the District of Columbia and several public interest groups filed the first major lawsuits Tuesday to block the repeal of the Federal Communications Commission’s net neutrality rules. The FCC's rules had prohibited Internet providers from slowing down or blocking websites. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who is leading the states' suit, said that the FCC’s repeal was “arbitrary” and “capricious” and violates federal law. The suit comes just a day after Democrats in the Senate said they were inching closer to acquiring the votes needed to pass legislation overturning the FCC's rule change. It has garnered the support of all 49 Democratic senators as well as one Republican, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME).
"A former C.I.A. officer suspected of helping China identify the agency’s informants in that country has been arrested, the Justice Department said on Tuesday. Many of the informants were killed in a systematic dismantling of the C.I.A.’s spy network in China starting in 2010 that was one of the American government’s worst intelligence failures in recent years, several former intelligence officials have said. The arrest of the former agent, Jerry Chun Shing Lee, 53, capped an intense F.B.I. investigation that began around 2012 after the C.I.A. began losing its informants in China."
"Three-quarters of the members of a federally chartered board advising the National Park Service abruptly quit Monday night out of frustration that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke had refused to meet with them or convene a single meeting last year. The resignation of nine out of 12 National Park System Advisory Board members leaves the federal government without a functioning body to designate national historic or natural landmarks. It also underscores the extent to which federal advisory bodies have become marginalized under the Trump administration."
"House GOP leaders on Tuesday night pitched a new strategy to avert a looming government shutdown that includes children's health funding and the delay of ObamaCare taxes. Lawmakers need to pass a short-term stopgap bill by midnight Friday, when money for the federal government runs out. The latest GOP plan would keep the government’s lights on through Feb. 16, and be coupled with a six-year extension of funding for the popular Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The continuing resolution or CR would also delay ObamaCare's medical device and Cadillac taxes for two years, and the health insurance tax for one year starting in 2019."
"A key Senate negotiator and White House official on Tuesday expressed little hope for an immigration deal this week but nonetheless predicted that Congress can avoid a government shutdown." Marc Short, the White House Capitol Hill liaison, said he's optimistic about a deal on DACA overall, but not this week. Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn also said he doubts an agreement can be made before week's end.