The Pentagon Has No Idea What Happened To Over $45 Billion In Afghan Reconstruction Funds

The Defense Department released an internal report on Thursday that claims they cannot account for $1.3 billion in money that was given to commanders in Afghanistan from 2004 through 2014. The money was 60 percent of the funds in the Commander’s Emergency Response Program (CERP), an emergency program that pays for critical reconstruction projects in the country. It’s a drop in the bucket compared to another report released in March which found that the Department of Defense had lost track of a total of $45 billion dollars used in long-term reconstruction projects.

The CERP program began in 2004, under the Bush Administration, and authorized money to be routed directly to military officials in Afghanistan with the hopes that critical reconstruction programs would be finished faster. It was supposed to provide “an immediate, positive impact on the local population” while large reconstruction projects were getting off the ground. However, after a year-long investigation by John F. Sopko, the U.S. special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, nobody can figure out what over half of the money actually paid for.

Sopko’s report claims that the Pentagon either couldn’t or wouldn’t account for the funds:

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. [Source]

His staff divided up the program’s expenditures into 20 categories ranging from healthcare, sanitation, and transportation. According to the report 4,494 projects fit into those twenty categories. Then there was the 21st category called “unknown” that accounted for 5,163 projects totaling more than a billion dollars.

This isn’t the first time Sopko, an Obama appointee, has documented billions of dollars in missing money that was attributed to waste or corruption. In 2013, the inspector found that the U.S. was continuing to give Afghan forces $1.4 billion for “gasoline” through 2018, even though money was missing from that fund as well. Last July, he and his staff found that many of the hundreds of thousands of excess AK-47 assault rifles and other weapons the Pentagon had shipped to Afghanistan over the last decade have vanished, most likely either resold on the black market, re-appropriated for drug trafficking, or are now being used by Taliban insurgents against the Afghan security forces.

Meanwhile the Pentagon has no answers for us; they say that some of the money may have gone towards other more “direct war needs” not outlined in the approved in the program, but doesn’t give any other explanation:
 Although the (inspector general’s) 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 Sopko’s office. “In addition (to) the 20 uses of CERP funds, it was also used as a tool for counterinsurgency.
Counterinsurgency work on the ground is by nature an informal animal and accountability can be difficult to keep track of in a quickly shifting tactical landscape, but this is too much money that the American taxpayer has wasted, and we deserve answers. Since 2002, the United States has spent $107 billion dollars nation-building in Afghanistan, which was one of the poorest and least developed nations in the world before al-Qaeda’s nefarious acts shoved it into the global spotlight. In such a region, the presence of so much money is an agent for instability in its own right, as the struggle for its disbursement encourages violence and corruption. It is a mark of the Bush Administration’s utter arrogance that they thought they could simply throw billions of dollars into an unconquerable nation it to force peace and stability, when all the money does is just create more things for factions to fight over. The well-intended but atrociously executed reconstruction projects in Iraq and Afghanistan have been money pits that the Department of Defense must be held accountable for.

Leave a Reply