The price of war in Afghanistan has been staggering for American taxpayers, and as U.S. troops continue to withdraw, there is new information about wasted spending by the military.
Eight inflatable boats were bought by the Pentagon in 2010 for $3 million, reports CBS News’ Chip Reid. They were to be used by the Afghan National Police to patrol a key river separating Afghanistan from Uzbekistan.
Today, however, they sit unused in a navy warehouse in Virginia.
“It’s like you gave your credit card to your teenage daughter or son and then you just never looked at the bills,” said John F. Sopko, special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction.
The future of those boats is unclear.
“They’re probably going to be sold for scrap or sold for pennies on the dollar,” Sopko said.
More than $100 billion has been allocated for relief and reconstruction. Tracking that money has been next to impossible.
“We don’t even have a list from (the Defense Department) of where they spent the money. We have no centralized list of where the taxpayer money went in Afghanistan,” Sopko said.
He points to other examples such as an estimated $600 million for never-used C-27 aircraft sitting on runways in Kabul and Germany and a massive $34 million command center in Helmand.
“It is the best constructed building I’ve seen in Afghanistan, and it will probably be leveled,” Sopko said. It will be never used, he said, noting that, “The Afghans can’t use it, they can’t maintain it.”
In a statement to CBS News, the Pentagon said it strives “to ensure every reconstruction project is executed in a manner that demonstrates responsible stewardship of taxpayers’ dollars. … Working in a wartime environment such as Afghanistan brings with it many challenges, and we continually seek to improve our processes.”
Sopko said the Pentagon is being very cooperative now. Congress has also asked it for an itemized list of all spending for the war effort.
Here is the full statement from Commander Elissa Smith, a Defense Department spokesperson:
In 2010 the determination was made to purchase eight rigid-hulled inflatable boats (RHIBs) for riverine use by the Afghan National Police using the Afghanistan Security Forces Fund (ASFF) to support the requirements of the Afghan National Police at the time. Later it was determined that the patrol boats were no longer required. Section 1531 of the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) gives the Secretary of Defense the authority to transfer equipment bought for the Afghans but not transferred to them or no longer required by them to be converted into DoD stocks for alternate disposition. The RHIBs are currently being stored pending disposition.
The Department of Defense (DoD) strives to ensure every reconstruction project is executed in a manner that demonstrates responsible stewardship of taxpayers’ dollars. We value the oversight provided by inspectors general and audit agencies, and incorporate their findings and recommendations into subsequent efforts. Working in a war time environment such as Afghanistan brings with it many challenges, and we continually seek to improve our processes. We also are focused on building the capability and capacity of our Afghan partners to improve accountability and help instill sound financial management practices in daily operations while reducing the risk of fraud, waste and abuse.
Our shared goal with the Afghan people is to ensure that the tremendous progress achieved over the past decade through the investments and sacrifices of the international community and Afghanistan is sustainable. The reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan are central to this. While there have been some instances of underperforming projects, these are vastly outweighed by the positive cumulative impact of the wide array of successful projects. Singling out a few underperforming projects-or misrepresenting or misconstruing the reasons why a project’s results did not turn out as expected and drawing larger conclusion about the effectiveness of reconstruction efforts-detracts from an accurate understanding of the overall positive impact that reconstruction has had on Afghanistan.