That’s right, American tax dollars are the second largest source of funding for insurgents in Afghanistan. The only thing they make more money on is their opium harvest. According to the Commission of Wartime Contracting’s report that was turned over to Congress this month, insurgents and warlords strongarm construction and transportation contractors into paying for protection against attacks. The letter shown below was taken directly from the report, requiring that ‘permission’ be obtained by the mujahideen before a construction company could be allowed to work in the area.
In Iraq, the majority of convoys were protected by the U.S. military, while in Afghanistan, Afghan contractors provide these services. Bribery and threats are common in the area, and the money the U.S. is giving to aid these locals is being funneled directly into the pockets of those who are actively fighting and killing U.S. troops. No real estimate for how much money has been spent in paying bribes is available, but in some areas they have reported that up to 20% of what they are given from the U.S. is given to groups like the Taliban.
The money that has been handed over to the insurgents is just a fraction of the money that has been lost in the mires of Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade. An estimated 30 to 60 billion dollars total have been lost on fraud, incompetency, and general waste on these two warfronts.
Examples of Waste and Fraud
$82 million was awarded to build what would essentially become Afghanistan’s ‘West Point’, the Afghan Defense University. Although training Afghans to take over the defense of their own nation sounds like a great idea in theory, apparently no one thought far enough ahead to realize that Afghanistan can’t afford to run the university on their own. It would take an estimated $40 million per year to operate, and the Afghan government simply can’t float the costs.
Army personnel in Afghanistan paid the price of fraud in 2009, when the Air Force awarded a contract to CH2M HILL to work on an infrastructure project. CH2M HILL subcontracted some work to ENCORP, who ultimately didn’t pay their workers and ran off with $2 million dollars. This held up construction for over a year, leaving several hundred soldiers with substandard housing for a year and a half.
Multiple complaints have been filed about criminally fraudulent activity that contractors have committed against the foreign workers they bring in to do jobs in Iraq and Afghanistan. Below are three direct excerpts from the report:
Contractors withheld pay from third-country nationals until their contract term was completed, thereby preventing them from voluntarily returning to their homes of record.
The SABRE International prime contractor paid the Ugandan guards an average of $700 per month, but the government paid SABRE $1,700 per month for each guard. This $1,000 difference exceeds even the most generous indirect contract costs.
Third-country nationals were lured with promises of work in Kuwait at good wages, and upon arrival were routed to Afghanistan and paid wages lower than promised.
Does that sound like the U.S. is basically paying for human trafficking to anyone else?
Facts and Figures
By the end of the fiscal year 2011, over $206 billion is expected to have been spent in Iraq and Afghanistan on these contracts and grants alone. A low estimate of $30 billion ranging to a high of $60 billion is thought to have been lost to fraud and waste. Waste itself is said to account for 10 to 20 percent of the total spent on these contracts, with fraud estimated at 5 to 9 percent.
With our nation teetering on economic disaster, and talk of cutting military ‘entitlements’ like healthcare and retirement, the news that such staggeringly huge sums of money are being wasted and worse – handed directly over to our enemy is a slap in the face to everyone in uniform. If major changes in the way contracts are handled in country aren’t made, the gross waste of money will simply expand and continue indefinitely.