By PIERRE BIENAIMÉ
Over a dozen transport planes that the US donated to the Afghan military were sold for scrap metal in yet another sign of questionable American policy in the country.
A set of high-level US government letters recently disclosed as part of a Pentagon Inspector General’s investigation reveal that sixteen G222 military cargo planes were scrapped after years of poor maintenance and failed integration into the Afghan Air Force. The planes were part of a failed military aid package that ran a nearly half-billion dollar price tag for US taxpayers.
The aircraft were hardly used before being ground down and sold to an Afghan construction company for 6 cents a pound, or a total of $32,000.
The training of Afghan security forces is a huge challenge for the US, which is pulling most of its troops out of the troubled central Asian country at the end of 2014. Afghan soldiers are responsible for numerous “insider attacks” against coalition troops, including the assassination of a two-star US general in Afghanistan this past August.
In a memo about “lessons learned” from the debacle, the Pentagon Inspector General for Afghanistan reconstruction project wrote that the Department of Defense had found problems with the G222 program in January 2013. The project’s managing office and NATO’s Afghanistan training mission command “did not properly manage the effort to obtain the spare parts needed to keep the aircraft flightworthy.”
The program ran a $486.1 million tag, but the aircraft logged only 234 of the 4,500 required hours from January through September 2012.
Even then, at that point the aircraft were at least still physically in existence, even if they weren’t really being used.
The Afghan air force obviously wasn’t as far along as this huge American investment in hardware anticipated it to be. But in November 2013, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John Sopko observed the G222 fleet “parked unused on a tarmac at Kabul International Airport” during a visit to Afghanistan.
By all accounts, the planes could still be made airworthy. In a letter to the Secretary of the Air Force last week, Sopko called for an inquiry into the scrapping, including whether alternatives like selling the planes had been considered, and what their condition at the time had been when the Pentagon’s Defense Logistics Agency allowed them to be scrapped.
The incident is arguably representative of the US and NATO’s failed efforts at setting up a proper Afghan military to keep the Taliban at bay when the US pulls its troops out at the end of this year.
And it shows how massive Pentagon expenditures can literally end up as scrap metal in just a couple short years.