How to Push Back on Calls for More Defense Spending: $45 Billion of Afghan Funds Unaccounted For

A big chunk of Pentagon spending prior to 2010 cannot be audited.


Just trying to keep the countryside "green."
U.S. Army

Remember when we were informed in 2013 that America was giving literal bags full of cash to the office of then-Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai? It really shouldn't be a surprise at this point that billions of dollars of Pentagon spending within Afghanistan prior to 2010 is unaccounted for.

That's the latest from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR). We've made note of previous SIGAR reports about blown tax dollars in the country, like $500,000 on a poorly made shooting range and $3.6 million for trucks to film games of buzkashi, Afghanistan's version of polo with goat carcasses.

Now comes the news that we don't even really know for certain what the Pentagon has done with $45 billion of $66 billion spent in Afghanistan prior to 2010. Why? Because until then the Pentagon was not required to account for it. The bureaucratic details that led to these circumstances is fleshed out here.

And yet we're still throwing money at Afghanistan like a problem gambler who is sure the next roll of the dice is going to make up for a viciously bad run. Inspector General John Sopko is now warning that we may not be able to track more than $400 million, half of which comes from the U.S. Agency for International Development, for programs to help Afghan women … allegedly. Even Afghanistan's first lady is suspicious about where the money for "Promote" will go. From Government Executive:

[Sopko] quoted Afghanistan's first lady Rula Ghani, "I do hope that we are not going to fall again into the game of contracting and sub-contracting and the routine of workshops and training sessions generating a lot of certificates on paper and little else."

The Promote contract, offered for five years as an indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity type, was awarded last October to Chemonics International, Development Alternatives Inc. and Tetra Tech Inc. for work in a country where transportation is spotty and many areas remain vulnerable to attack by Taliban soldiers.

The IG asked how the U.S. contribution of $216 million was determined, what commitments are in the works for international donors, and how timelines and data collection for fulfillment of the contract are structured. "With which private sector and civil society entities has USAID secured buy-in and participation in the Promote program?" Sopko asked. "What types of higher level opportunities will be available to Promote beneficiaries? "

Keep all of this spending in mind when politicians are demanding even more defense spending. Granted, all of these specific examples don't all come from the Pentagon. SIGAR's point is that we don't actually have specific examples of fraud or corruption from that $45 billion because the spending is simply unaccounted for.

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  1. The military is as horrible, dysfunctional, wasteful, and corrupt as any other bureaucracy. Yet for some reason a shitload of people still have some absurd reverence for it because…it kills people and breaks things (well, more than other bureaucracies) too? I just don’t fucking get it.

    1. If you don’t blindly support everything the military does then you hate the troops, you hate veterans, and worst of all you hate the freedoms that they fight for. I mean, if our soldiers weren’t killing goatherders in Afghanistan then those goatherders would be setting their IEDs here in America. Duh.

      So… why do you hate the troops?

      1. Old Man Waterfall: Oh, land-o-Goshen! Your Honours, I’m not some slick, big-city lawyer like my opponent here. [The Hyper-Chicken caws.] But I am a veteran who has fought for his planet. You see this hand of mine?

        Scalia: Yes, I do.

        Old Man Waterfall: No, you don’t [He takes it off.] ‘Cause I lost my real hand plantin’ the flag when we took back Halley’s Comet! Yet it was worth it, so much do I love that flag. [The bench sobs.] I love it even more than I love my seven wives — that’s right, I’m a polygamist. [The court “boos”.] Yet I would gladly eat a flag myself, had I not used my intestine as a rope to hoist a flag made of my own skin, if it would protect the freedoms of the proud people who salute that flag. [The court cheers.] Freedoms such as polygamy. [The court “boos”.] I rest my case. [He puts his hand back on and his leg falls off.] Whoa, jeez!

        1. Just saw this episode the other day. Startlingly prescient, I thought.

      2. Sarc,

        During W.’s presidency when I was debating/arguing against the decisions our government was making and the way in which they were conducting their “War on Terrorism” I was repeatedly told by many individuals basically what you wrote above. They were red-faced serious where you were being sarcastic.

        Additionally, because I was against torture I not only hated America but I was willing to let millions of children die horrible deaths.

        1. I know. They truly believe that shit as a matter of faith.

        2. You actually got to debate Bill O’Reilly?

        3. They sound crazy. And not the fun kind of crazy either.

          1. Raston,

            You’re right. I kept some of the comments/exchanges. At the risk of occupying too much space here I’d like to share one response to my comments and then a series of exchanges between myself and a different commenter.


            Okay. I get where you are going, and I’ll say it similar to the way I told my views to Sarah. I don’t care when it comes to terrorists. Any way we can get the info with the least cost (lives), and with the best results. That’s it. I don’t care if we have to pluck each one of their toe nails off one by one IF we can get what we need. I don’t care if we have to tickle them until they break. I don’t care how light or how harsh it is. If it brings results, fine. They’re no better than dead to me anyway. That’s really the bottom line, Charles. And I’ll apologize to you the same way I did Sarah. But that’s the truth. I’d be lying if I said any different. Terrorists are not worthy of one iota of respect, decency or protection of any law. “

            1. Raston,

              This is from “Jerry” to me:
              “I agree that torture is reprehensible, which is one of the things we are fighting in Iraq.
              However, the discussion has frequently mentioned waterboarding, which is not considered torture, but an interrogation technique.
              I have no doubts waterboarding is a very unpleasant experience. It must be so because it is considered 100 percent effective and usually induces cooperation within 30 seconds.

              It was used successfully to learn about terrorist operations planned by two of al-Qaida’s top operatives – Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, involved in the planning of the 9/11 attack, and Abu Zubaida, another leader of the terrorist organization.

              Apparently both of these mass killers endured many hours of coercive interrogations without talking. But they sung like canaries after a few seconds of waterboarding.

              In both cases, there is reason to believe planned terrorist attacks were foiled as a result of this technique.

              Would you really want waterboarding to be banned under all circumstances? What alternatives would you suggest for quick results?…

              While I also find those experiences unpleasant, I don’t think they would produce the needed results in time to defuse the bomb.

              Let’s not tie the hands of future Jack Bauers who will need to do what they have to do to save lives.”

              [Continued below]

              1. [Continued from above]

                “I personally think Mohammed and Zubaida got off way too easy with waterboarding

                I would personally have performed far more unpleasant procedures on them without a twinge of guilt in my conscience. Real torture techniques would have been appropriate in both cases.

                But here’s why waterboarding is not torture.

                Do you know the U.S. military waterboards hundreds of our own soldiers every year? It is part of the conditioning Special Forces troops undergo to prepare for battle and the possibility of capture by the enemy.

                In other words, it’s OK for us to do this to America’s best and brightest but it’s too horrible for our worst enemies?

                Does this make sense to anyone?

                Many Americans are simply confused about the real definition of torture. Since so little sacrifice is required of most Americans today and because so few have ever experienced combat, they equate momentary discomfort or fear with torture. They are not the same.
                My definition of torture is simple: It involves physical or mental abuse that leaves lasting scars. Cutting off fingers, toes, limbs – that would be torture. Forcing prisoners to play Russian roulette – that would be torture. Sticking hot pokers in the eyes of prisoners – that would be torture.

                But a few seconds of dripping water on a prisoner’s face? That’s not torture to

                1. I replied with quotes refuting his assumptions and links* to the sources where I found the quotes, and rather than checking my evidence he responded with this:


                  Keep two things in mind;

                  1) People in message boards routinely only look for links to support their opinions. That does not mean that they are the truth.

                  2) Common sense and/or common knowledge need no links.
                  Should I provide links to ‘prove’ that the Earth is round, or are you okay with that?”

                  *Two of the links


    2. The military love on the right is one of the best examples of tribal thinking. The military has all of the bureaucratic problems the right normally attacks, but the troops embody a shitload of conservative values related to masculinity, honor, duty, hard work, etc.

      So conservatives ignore all the problems with the army because the troops are Real Men who speak to various ideals of the conservative movement.

    3. I’ve made $64,000 so far this year working online and I’m a full time student. I’m using an online business opportunity I heard about and I’ve made such great money. It’s really user friendly and I’m just so happy that I found out about it. Heres what I’ve been doing

  2. Sure would have been nice to have spent it on space technology to get us off this rock.

  3. Tetra Tech Inc.

    *rolls eyes, spits, then resumes whittling*

  4. the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR)

    “It’s pronounced ‘eye-gor’.”

    Seriously, this is yet another fake scandal in which the IG should squeeze the rank and file until they remember how the money was spent they spent the money for which they are responsible.

    1. It could be worse… It could be raining.

    2. this is yet another fake scandal in which the IG should squeeze the rank and file until they remember how the money was spent they spent the money for which they are responsible.

      Its hard for me to believe that every penny spent in Afghanistan doesn’t have a form with somebody’s signature authorizing the spend.

      “Colonel Brasspolisher, I see that you signed for $8.2mm to be spent on this outhouse. Which was never built. I’m eager to hear your explanation.”

      “Well, that project was supposed to be overseen by our micturition excavation team.”

      “Great! That would be the team overseen by Captain Spittoon. I’ll ask him.”

      “Captain Spittoon, I see that Col. Brasspolisher authorized $8.2mm to be spent under your supervision on this outhouse. Which was never built. I’m eager to hear your explanation.”

      Paper trails. If they are there, you can run down who to hang. If they aren’t there, you know who was responsible for seeing that they were, so you know who to hang.

  5. Ahem. “No, fuck you, cut spending.”

    1. “After you tell us where the bloody money you already spent went!”

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