WASHINGTON, DC — Up to half of the estimated $126 billion in U.S. taxpayer funds devoted to nation-building efforts in Afghanistan are “misspent, mismanaged, or disappears entirely,” a top staffer from Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-KY) office testified this week.
During a Senate panel hearing on U.S. spending in Afghanistan, Sergio Gor, Sen. Paul’s deputy chief of staff, indicated in written testimony that between 20 and 50 percent of U.S. reconstruction funding in Afghanistan “goes to corruption, waste, fraud, and abuse.”
John Sopko, the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), who also testified before the Senate panel on Wednesday, noted in his written remarks that there are different components to America’s nation-building activities, including:
Rebuilding Afghanistan’s national security forces, promoting the rule of law, fighting widespread corruption and the narcotics trade, improving public health and education, promoting respect for human rights, expanding electric and transportation infrastructure, and furthering economic development.
Sopko revealed that, in addition to the $126 billion devoted to reconstruction operation, the United States had spent about $750 billion on the American military offensive alone since the war started in October 2001, for an overall total “approaching $900 billion.”
The high-ranking staffer from the office of Sen. Paul, a staunch critic of the waste associated with the Afghanistan war effort, added:
The United States needs to lessen our aid dramatically to Afghanistan. So much of our aid is lost to waste, fraud, abuse, and corruption. Some estimate that as much as 50% of our money is misspent, mismanaged, or disappears entirely. According to recent testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the United States’ involvement in Afghanistan will cost taxpayers a whopping $45 billion in 2018.
Echoing Sopko, Gor acknowledged that it is difficult to determine a specific estimate for the amount of U.S. dollars wasted in Afghanistan, telling lawmakers:
Corruption can range from literally billions of dollars disappearing, to preferential hiring and nepotism. Ministers tend to hire from within their own tribes, their own villages, or quite literally from their immediate family.
Corruption is so rampant, we don’t have a clue what percentage actually disappears from the top line. Oversight is greatly lacking.
In July 2017, Sopko told lawmakers that so much American taxpayer money is mismanaged in Afghanistan that it is nearly impossible to determine what percentage of reconstruction funds can be written off as waste, fraud, and abuse.
“All I can say is it’s too much. Way too much, billions, but I can’t tell you what percentage,” the inspector general declared.
In citing examples of wasteful spending in Afghanistan, Gregory McNeill, a top Republican staffer for the Senate Homeland Security Subcommittee on Federal Spending hosting the hearing Wednesday, noted that Afghans are trashing tens of millions worth of U.S.-funded equipment before they even take it out of the box.
He told lawmakers via written testimony, “We had a whistleblower contact us several years ago describing how new goods were being vastly over ordered, shipped overseas, and then destroyed in Afghanistan – in their original packaging, brand new.”
McNeill learned from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Congress’s auditing arm, that at least an estimated “$50 million worth of new, in the packaging, equipment was being destroyed”
Despite the millions of American taxpayer dollars being trashed, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS) determined “nothing criminal was happening and it didn’t warrant further investigation,” McNeill testified.
It was business as usual for the Pentagon, which received more money this year than any other department in the history of the United States.