War

Pentagon can’t account for $1 billion in Afghan reconstruction aid

26.04.2015  |  13:43
Pentagon can’t account for $1 billion in Afghan reconstruction aid

The Defense Department cant account for $1.3 billion that was shipped to force commanders in Afghanistan from 2004 to 2014 for critical reconstruction projects, 60 percent of all such spending under an emergency program, an internal report released Thursday concludes

The Defense Department cant account for $1.3 billion that was shipped to force commanders in Afghanistan from 2004 to 2014 for critical reconstruction projects, 60 percent of all such spending under an emergency program, an internal report released Thursday concludes.

The missing money was part of the relatively small amount of Afghanistan spending that was routed directly to military officers in a bid to bypass bureaucracy and rush the construction of urgently needed roads, bridges, schools, hospitals, water treatment plants and other essential infrastructure. About 70 percent of the $100 billion the United States has spent to rebuild Afghanistan during more than 13 years of war went through the Pentagon, with the rest distributed by the U.S. Agency for International Development and other civilian departments.

A yearlong investigation by John F. Sopko, the U.S. special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, found that the Pentagon couldnt or wouldnt provide basic information about what happened to 6 in 10 dollars of $2.26 billion it had spent over the course of a decade on the Commanders Emergency Response Program.

In reviewing this data, SIGAR found that the Department of Defense could only provide financial information relating to the disbursement of funds for CERP projects totaling $890 million (40 percent) of the approximately $2.2 billion in obligated funds at that time, Sopkos report says.

When Sopkos staff divided the Pentagon expenditures into 20 categories set under the emergency program, from transportation and education to health care, agriculture, water and sanitation, by far the largest category was a 21st that the inspector general termed unknown.

That category applied to 5,163 projects, compared with 4,494 projects in the 20 defined areas.

The Pentagon didnt respond to Sopkos main findings in comments hed sought while conducting the probe,

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which were released along with his report on the investigation.

In one comment, however, U.S. Central Command, which oversees military operations in Afghanistan and 19 other countries in the Middle East and Central Asia, suggested that some of the money was redirected from reconstruction aid to more direct war needs.

Although the (inspector generals) report is technically accurate, it did not discuss the counterinsurgency strategies in relationship to CERP, the Central Command said in a Feb. 25 email to Sopkos office. In addition (to) the 20 uses of CERP funds, it was also used as a tool for counterinsurgency.

The comment didnt explain why money set aside for reconstruction needs would need to be used to pay for counterinsurgency, which has been a core part of the U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan since the October 2001 invasion following the Sept. 11 terror attacks. The bulk of the Afghanistan wars $800 billion price tag for the United States has gone to battlefield needs.

Counterinsurgency is not among the 20 categories defined by Pentagon regulations under the emergency-response program. The closest categories to anything battle-related are condolence payments to Afghan civilians, or their families, who died or were injured because of the war and hero payments to the surviving spouses or next of kin of Afghan soldiers or police killed in the conflict.

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