Audit: U.S. Military May Be Purchasing Fuel in Iran Likely Benefiting Afghan Taliban

President Donald Trump In January ordered the suspension of US military aid to Pakistan, saying it was not doing enough to target the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani insurgent group
AFP/ARIF ALI

The U.S. Inspector General for Afghanistan Recon (SIGAR), a congressionally-mandated watchdog agency, documented claims in a report released this month that the American military in Afghanistan is purchasing fuel for the Afghan security forces from Iran in violation of United States sanctions.

SIGAR previously reported that, until late 2012, the Pentagon had not required fuel vendors, mainly Afghanistan-owned companies, to provide country-of-origin documentation for the fuel they deliver or checked to see if they complied with U.S. sanctions.

That practice has allegedly continued beyond 2012, the watchdog agency reported Friday, noting that as of April 2018 it was “unable” to verify Pentagon assertions that the U.S. military is requiring “vendors to obtain certified country-of-origin documentation from the refineries from which they acquire fuel.”

“[U.S. Army] officials involved with the 2015 to 2017 [fuel supply] contract’s execution told us that they had received allegations that contractors may have delivered fuel from prohibited sources, such as Iran,” SIGAR revealed.

The watchdog later emphasized:

[U.S. Army] contracting officials noted that under the [fuel-supply] contract, vendors may have obtained fuel that was of poor quality or from prohibited sources, such as Iran, due to the fact the contract did not require the vendors to submit country-of-origin documentation for the fuel they delivered.

The U.S. military assured SIGAR that it is now confirming that the fuel it purchases does not originate from Iran, which shares a border with Afghanistan. However, the watchdog agency is unable to verify the military’s assertions.

Friday’s audit covers fuel obtained by the Pentagon’s Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan (CSTC-A), the primary agency responsible for supplying the commodity to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF), which includes police and army units.

John Sopko, the head of SIGAR, indicated in Friday’s audit that Taliban terrorists and other jihadists who are killing and maiming U.S. troops are stealing millions of dollars worth of American taxpayer-funded fuel, some of which may originate from Iran.

“Fuel is one of the most easily stolen items that the U.S. supplies to the ANDSF. Fuel thefts and other means of profiting from fuel conspiracies can provide insurgent and terrorist organizations with needed funds to continue to undermine the Afghan government and threaten the Afghan people,” noted SIGAR, adding:

Due to the large amount of fuel needed for military operations, along with the highly transferable nature of the commodity, fuel theft has become a lucrative business in Afghanistan. SIGAR and other oversight agencies have identified at least $154.4 million in fuel stolen from either the U.S. military or the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF).

However, because U.S. officials have usually detected fuel theft long after the theft began, it is likely that even more fuel has been stolen in Afghanistan. Corruption throughout the Afghan fuel industry and the country more broadly may even benefit the Taliban and other insurgent or terrorist organizations by supplying funds and fuel to those organizations

SIGAR found that CSTC-A has failed to use available technology-based capabilities to remotely monitor fuel deliveries, storage tank levels, or fuel transfer procedures despite the rampant corruption within the ANDSF fuel procurement process.

Instead of monitoring fraudulent activity themselves, U.S. military personnel relied on contractors to self-report on corruption.

The watchdog notes:

[U.S. troops] relied on the contractors developing anti-corruption plans themselves and on the contractors’ employees actively reporting acts of corruption or attempts to otherwise divert fuel that they witness…As our prior audit reports and investigations have demonstrated, oversight mechanisms that primarily rely on contractor reporting have not been sufficient to deter fuel theft and corruption.

The Pentagon has spent at least $16.2 billion to supply fuel for the Afghan security forces and U.S. military operations since 2008 alone.

Since the Afghanistan war started in October 2001, Congress has appropriated nearly $73 billion in American taxpayer funds to train, equip, and sustain the Afghan security forces.

SIGAR has carried out 70 investigations linked to fuel theft in Afghanistan, resulting in nearly $32 million in fines, restitution, and forfeitures, as well as $28.5 million in recoveries and savings.

The investigations have also triggered 40 convictions that resulted in sentences totaling more than 115 years in prison and 53 years of probation.

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