Watchdog Finds $15B in U.S. Taxpayer Waste on Afghanistan Reconstruction

Afghan construction workers restore a traditional courtyard house in Kabul on June 30, 2010, with the support of the Afghan government and the Turquoise Mountain Foundation. The area, called Murad Khani, was on the frontline of fighting during the Afghan civil war of the 1980s, and became a rubbish tip …
SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images

The U.S. has wasted at least $15 billion in taxpayer dollars on failed reconstruction projects in Afghanistan, according to a letter a government watchdog agency sent to members of Congress, which was released on Thursday.

The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), a government watchdog office set up to monitor U.S. spending, identified $15.5 billion in waste, fraud, and abuse between its inception in 2008 through December 2017, according to the letter sent to Reps. Walter Jones (R-NC), Peter Welch (D-VT), and Tim Walberg (R-MI).

That $15.5 billion figure came from SIGAR’s examination of only $52.7 billion of the total $126 billion in U.S. taxpayer funds appropriated for Afghanistan reconstruction projects — or 42 percent of the funds examined so far.

Of the $15.5 billion wasted, $2.2 billion and $3.5 billion were spread across 643 instances, but the bulk of it — $12 billion — came from two government reconstruction efforts that “appear to have failed and wasted U.S. taxpayer dollars,” SIGAR said.

The major two efforts were to build and reform Afghan government institutions — which “often exacerbated conflicts, enabled corruption, and bolstered support for insurgents,” and for counternarcotics programs that appear “to have done very little to stem the production and exportation of illicit drugs.”

SIGAR noted that since this examination only covers their investigations that have already been completed, the $15.5 billion is only a “portion of the total waste, fraud, abuse, and failed efforts.”

Jones, Welch, and Walberg expressed outrage at these findings and requested that eight other government watchdogs investigate U.S. taxpayer waste on Afghanistan reconstruction.

“It is time. Enough blood and money has been shed in Afghanistan,” Jones said in a statement. “Tragically, $15.5 billion is only the verified amount of wasted money – the number is much greater. That is why we are requesting other agencies for an in-depth review of tax dollar usage within their jurisdiction.” He went on to say, “The American people deserve a better understanding of where their money is going – to the black hole, known as Afghanistan.”

Welch said:

We are now seventeen years into the endless war in Afghanistan. This report barely scratches the surface of its enormous human and financial toll. I applaud [Inspector General John] Sopko for his persistent efforts to put a spotlight on rampant waste and fraud in Afghanistan spending. Congress must do its job and take action to end it.

“As the SIGAR report shows, reconstruction programs in Afghanistan have been mismanaged and poorly run for years. This level of wasteful spending is simply staggering and unacceptable,” Walberg said. “We need greater oversight of these funds to prevent waste and shine a light on how American tax dollars are being misspent in Afghanistan.”

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