In a letter to US Congress, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) said that a staggering $15.5 billion has been wasted in the country over the past 11 years.
However, the watchdog claimed that this was its first estimate and that the figure is probably “only a portion”.
Congressmen requested SIGAR track government’s spending in 2017 in order to ascertain the level of fraud and corruption in the US’s efforts to rebuild the country.
In his letter to Congress last week, John F. Sopko, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, said they had calculated the total amount of waste, fraud and abuse between 2008 and December 2017.
“To do this, we reviewed 766 SIGAR products and investigations completed during the period. That body of work examined approximately $52.7 billion of the $126 billion that has been appropriated for Afghanistan reconstruction,” he said.
“SIGAR has identified up to $15.5 billion in waste, fraud, and abuse, and failed whole-of-government reconstruction efforts (or 29 percent of the $52.7 billion we examined).
He said SIGAR’s review identified 643 instances of waste, fraud, and abuse valued between $2.2 billion and $3.5 billion of the reconstruction dollars examined.
“In addition, SIGAR found $12 billion spent on two whole-of government reconstruction efforts that appear to have failed and resulted in wasted US taxpayer dollars.,” he said.
“Specifically, in May 2018, we reported that the $4.7 billion spent on “stabilization programs” in Afghanistan between 2002 and 2017 was largely unsuccessful in building and reforming government institutions in Afghanistan, and large sums of US stabilization dollars often exacerbated conflicts, enabled corruption, and bolstered support for insurgents.”
He also said the $7.3 billion spent to stem the Afghan drug trade has done very little to stop the "production and exportation of illicit drugs," and notes that opium production is now "at the highest levels since 2002."
Sopko stated in the letter that SIGAR has reported for years that almost $7.3 billion spent by the United States in Afghanistan on counter-narcotics programs appears to have done very little to stem the production and exportation of illicit drugs.
Sopko said SIGAR would continue to update this information on an annual basis but stated that this letter only contains the results of their review of SIGAR’s published products and closed cases.
He stated that their review likely uncovered only a portion of the total waste, fraud, abuse, and failed efforts.
“An examination of reports and investigatory outcomes from other oversight bodies with purview over reconstruction or warfighting dollars spent in Afghanistan may assist decision-makers to better understand outcomes and make more informed decisions about spending and oversight,” he said.
SIGAR spent 10 months researching the issue after being asked by three congressmen in September for such a report.
One of the three congressmen who requested the calculation, Rep. Walter Jones, R.-N.C., at the time called Afghanistan a "black hole" for taxpayers money. "The American people deserve a better understanding of where their money is going," said Jones.