Late last month, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) issued a blistering report detailing millions of dollars of waste, fraud, and abuse in the US and coalition reconstruction effort in Afghanistan.
The report, issued to Congress on July 30th, presents the results of a series of investigations conducted by SIGAR that revealed $37.4 million in “questionable costs” in the last quarter of the year — those costs lead to a total of $279.5 million in questionable costs identified by SIGAR to date.
Those “questionable costs” in some instances provoked criminal investigations that yielded guilty pleas and fines. As a result of SIGAR investigations both members of the US military and government contractors plead guilty to corruption charges. The charges included theft, bribery, money laundering, and conspiracy to defraud the US government.
The SIGAR investigations were, not surprisingly, not completely welcomed by US forces and contractors in Afghanistan. As SIGAR previously reported, there were attempts by US military personnel to obstruct an investigation into the costs incurred for a $36 million command and control facility in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province.
According to SIGAR’s report on the investigation, Army Colonel Norman F. Allen “attempted to coach witnesses involved in an active investigation and encouraged military personnel not to cooperate [PDF] with SIGAR. The report went on to note that “SIGAR believes these actions constituted both misconduct and mismanagement, and violated his professional and ethical responsibilities as an Army lawyer.”
Military officers are noted in the report for proposing and endorsing “slow rolling” SIGAR’s investigation into the costs of the project.
Just as troubling as SIGAR’s investigations may be the conclusion of SIGAR’s performance audits. One of the July 30th quarterly report’s conclusions was that “U.S. government agencies do not have a comprehensive strategy to help develop the rule of law in Afghanistan, and problematic performance-management systems make it difficult for agencies to fully determine the effectiveness of rule-of-law program.”
In other words, the US government does not have a real plan to tackle corruption in Afghanistan and even if such a plan existed there is no current way to measure its success.
The war in Afghanistan has been estimated to have already cost the United States $1 trillion as well as the lives of over 2,300 American service members. [PDF] According to a study published in May of this year by Brown University, approximately 26,270 Afghan civilians [PDF] have been killed by direct war-related violence and more than 29,900 civilians have been injured since the start of the war 2001.
Despite austerity budgeting in Congress and public ambivalence towards the war, the US government plans to maintain a military force within Afghanistan indefinitely.