There is trouble brewing over at the Department of Defense: A multi-million dollar elephant in the room shaped like stockpiles of machine guns and grenade launchers.
It all came to light when the results of a recently conducted audit by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), detailed some disturbing accounts from the record systems of the Department of Defense (DoD).
SIGAR, an independent organization, created by Congress to monitor the funds going to Afghanistan, discovered a hemorrhage in weapons that have been mislabeled, incorrectly imputed or simply disappeared. Where are these arms going? Well, some speculate right into the hands of those we are fighting.
The report states that, “Since 2004 the DoD has provided over 747,000 weapons and auxiliary equipment valued at approximately $626 million to the ANSF [Afghan National Security Forces]. Included in these figures are over 465,000 small arms – weapons such as rifles, pistols, machine guns, grenade launchers, and shotguns.”
However, more than 43% of weapons recorded by the DoD tracking systems were shown to be mislabeled or marked as duplicates. This accounts for more than 200,000 weapons this year alone. Furthermore, when the agency looked back through old records, it showed that almost 87% of registered inventory lacked proper data to corroborate the date of shipment from the USA.
SIGAR went to Afghanistan to conduct inventory audits, but due to a lack of record keeping by the Afghan National Army, most audits were nearly impossible to complete.
If these shipments have no double check on them, there’s no way to know if they are being sold to the Taliban or Al Qaeda by members of the Afghan army who may still harbor sympathies for these groups, which means a spectacular waste of resources might be taking place right under the noses of the American military.
However, John Sopko, the new Inspector General in Afghanistan, is done dealing with this sort of waste. In an interview with AFP, Sopko revealed that, “It’s probably billions of dollars that have been wasted.” He points to programs that have fallen apart, noting that the United States spent far too much money, too quickly and without proper oversight. One $34.4 million waste, on growing soybeans, demonstrates his growing irritation with American policy.
“We came up with a brilliant idea, but we never talked to the Afghans. The Afghans don’t grow it, they don’t like it, they don’t eat it, there’s no market for it.”
Another report shows that $771.8 million was spent on aircraft for Afghanistan, but it seems left out of this arrangement were funds to train pilots or maintain this equipment. Rather, the airplanes have been left “to rust” on the tarmac.
However, Sopko goes on to explain that pulling out funding suddenly would be a huge mistake. Because Afghanistan cannot fund their own government or security forces, taking money away would lead to rapid collapse, which could bring to light a much scarier cast of characters.
Since 90% of the world’s opium comes from Afghanistan, the drug-lords have created a world inside a world, where they can pull the strings of government, local police officials and control entire swaths of the countryside.
“As a result,” Sopko says, “you have a growing cancer inside Afghanistan. In many areas there’s a rival to the government, and it’s not the insurgency, it’s the narco-traffickers.”
Sopko would prefer to refine the government spending rather than do away with it completely. Although he’s faced criticism for being too harsh in the past with U.S. government spending, he brushes it off easily, “I’m not a cheerleader, I’m a watchdog.”
This no-nonsense attitude has ensured we’ll see further reports from SIGAR, refusing to mince words when it comes to overspending and draining programs.
As for the 200,000 missing weapons, SIGAR has asked that the DoD review and revamp their entire tracking system in the next six months and create a tracking system in Afghanistan for every piece of weaponry that passes from us to them. No doubt, Sopko will be following up on checks the DoD puts in place.