WASHINGTON, D.C. — Wasteful spending and fraud involving the billions in American taxpayer funds devoted to the nearly 16-year-old war in Afghanistan can be fatal, warned the chief of the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), a watchdog agency.
“Fraud kills. There’s no way around it. That’s why I’m upset about fraud. That’s why I’m upset about waste. When we waste money, people get killed,” inspector general (IG) John Sopko told Breitbart News.
In November 2015, SIGAR reported that fraud by government contractors in Afghanistan paved the way for insurgents to plant roadside bombs, also known as improvised explosive devices (IEDs), under highways and embankments that ultimately killed and wounded U.S. troops.
Moreover, Afghan corruption feeds on fraud, waste, and abuse. SIGAR has found that some corrupt officials in Afghanistan have diverted American taxpayer funds to the Taliban and other terrorist groups fighting against U.S. forces in the country.
Despite the fatal problems associated with the mismanagement of U.S. funds in Afghanistan, Sopko told Breitbart News he believes the American government has not reprimanded anyone for wasting taxpayer money.
As IG for the nation-building effort in Afghanistan, he said the lack of accountability is one of his tops concerns, noting:
When I start seeing the State Department and [US]AID [Agency for International Development] and DOD [Department of Defense] start firing people, start withholding salaries, withholding promotions for wasting taxpayers dollars then I would feel a heck of a lot better. I think it’s starting with Gen. [James] Mattis. He is the first secretary of defense to take an IG report and send it out to his senior officials and say let’s do something about it.
Sopko was referring to a recent SIGAR report showing that the Pentagon wasted nearly $30 million in excess cost over the last decade on Afghan National Army (ANA) uniforms that may “hinder ANA operations by providing a more clearly visible target to the enemy.”
Asked on June 26 to provide a percentage of the amount of money invested in Afghanistan that can be written off as fraud, waste, and abuse, he said it would be nearly impossible to do so given the extent to which the U.S. and Afghan governments have mismanaged hundreds of billion invested in Afghanistan.
“All I can say is it’s too much,” he told lawmakers during a House panel hearing. “Way too much, billions.”
“The American people should demand accountability,” Sopko later told Breitbart News.
He pointed out that people in the United States should care about the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan because “we’re spending billions of dollars there,” it remains a “national security” concern, and “we have a lot of American lives at risk.”
About 8,400 troops remain in the country. An estimated 2,255 have been killed and another 20,245 wounded during the ongoing war.
Since the conflict started in October 2001, the United States has appropriated more than $700 billion, including money for war fighting and reconstruction ($120 billion).
Despite the investment, Afghanistan’s security has deteriorated, and the country’s government suffers from “systemic” corruption.
Echoing American military officials, Sopko told Breitbart News, “Corruption is a serious threat to the whole [U.S.] exercise [in Afghanistan] because you lose the support of the people. The people get turned off. A lot of our money goes to bad organized criminal cartels. The people know that, and they think we are part of a bad system. It’s a serious, serious problem.”