Washington (AFP) – US lawmakers keen to shear costs from expensive reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan are locking horns with the Pentagon over a failed multi-million-dollar project to mate cashmere goats in the war-torn country.
A panel of politicians was aghast Friday as John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, described a Defense Department initiative to import Italian and Tajik goats that were supposed to mate on a remote farm and increase Afghanistan’s output of blond and white cashmere wool.
However, some of the goats used to stock the farm were infected with Johne’s disease — a transmittable, fatal gastrointestinal infection that can destroy whole herds, Sopko said in written testimony to the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.
Additionally, the farm itself was too small to provide adequate grazing.
Congresswoman Jackie Speier suggested the episode was worthy of lampooning by British comic John Oliver, who hosts a satirical current affairs show on US television.
“Too bad many of the female goats were already infected with the disease that could have wiped out the entire herd,” she said, noting that “only two of those fancy Italian goats are still usable in the project.”
“Manufacturing warm, fluffy sweaters (is) not the key to economic recovery in Afghanistan, nor is it in (the Pentagon’s) expertise,” she added.
Sopko has repeatedly highlighted the $6.1 million goat project as one illustration of wasted money in Afghanistan and America’s “scattershot” approach to economic development in the country.
The United States has spent about $1 trillion in fighting and reconstruction during the years it has been in Afghanistan. Some 2,200 US lives have been lost in the longest war in US history.