The United States has spent $714 billion on a war it’s losing.
That’s according to the latest quarterly report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, its 36th on the subject in the more than 15 years since the U.S. military invaded Afghanistan after the September 11th, 2001, attacks. An estimated 86%, or $675 billion, was doled out by the Department of Defense — a particularly alarming figure, given that Secretary of Defense James Mattis declared on June 13 that the armed forces “are not winning in Afghanistan right now, and we will correct this as soon as possible.”
Given that the national public debt has soared thanks to expenditures on the Forever Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a hefty bill should surprise no one — but the examples of waste, misappropriation, corruption, and outright incompetence should infuriate every taxpayer. Let’s take a look at where your hard-earned money goes, shall we?
- According to one of two performance audits conducted by SIGAR, the Pentagon spent $457.7 million on programs designed to help the Afghan National Forces build their intelligence-gathering capabilities, but the DoD can’t actually measure its return on investment “because of a lack of performance metrics.” Existing records maintained by the Afghan military showed that “intelligence trainers and instructors failed to meet the minimally established training requirements;” it’s hard to imagine the intel forces’ experience deviates significantly from this trend.
- SIGAR flagged just over $27.2 million in “questioned costs” across all U.S.-funded Afghan reconstruction contracts, a classification that encompasses “incorrect employee payments and miscalculations of travel costs, exceeding maximum budgets without prior approval, and insufficient documentation to support project expenses.” You know that jerk who steals office supplies, and then everyone’s bonuses get cut? In Afghanistan, that jerk has grown into a $414.5 million problem since October 2001.
- Of the $8 million obligated since 2010 to bring Sesame Street to Afghan TV networks, more than half a million simply disappeared.
- A Qatar-based construction firm contracted for $16.1 million to renovate Afghanistan's largest prison not only finished just half the job, but failed to correct construction problems detailed in previous SIGAR reports starting in 2010 — despite the contract swelling to $20.2 million. Which, well, fuck.
- DoD spent $94 million on woodland camouflage uniforms for local forces in a country that’s only 2.1% forests — a decision that a June SIGAR report says resulted from then-Afghanistan Minister of Defense Abdul Rahim Wardak picking a random uniform he liked off a website, which is just awful.
This problem is only going to get worse: Afghanistan's own domestic revenues declined nearly 25% over the last year and only covered about 40% of total government expenditures, leaving the U.S. to fill in government coffers. But SIGAR’s investigations this quarter earned more than $5.5 million in savings for the U.S. government, so there’s an upside, I guess!
Better start clipping those coupons, y’all.