The human casualties of America's ongoing occupation of Afghanistan are tragic. On top of 5,500 dead U.S. soldiers and contractors, the death toll for other soldiers and citizens runs as high as 68,000 according to one count.
In that context, news that the Pentagon has no idea what happened to over $1 billion is almost a relief. But not really.
The Defense Department can't account for $1.3 billion that was shipped to force commanders in Afghanistan from 2004 to 2014 for critical reconstruction projects, 60 percent of all such spending under an emergency program, an internal report released Thursday concludes….
A yearlong investigation by John F. Sopko, the U.S. special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, found that the Pentagon couldn't – or wouldn't – provide basic information about what happened to 6 in 10 dollars of $2.26 billion it had spent over the course of a decade on the Commander's Emergency Response Program.
But never let it be said that the U.S. military leaves a dollar behind. Or that military brass can't come up with an evasive digression that raises as many questions as it answers. While refusing to respond directly to issues raised by the report, Pentagon officials played dodge ball with it instead.
In one comment, however, U.S. Central Command, which oversees military operations in Afghanistan and 19 other countries in the Middle East and Central Asia, suggested that some of the money was redirected from reconstruction aid to more direct war needs.
"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."
The comment didn't explain why money set aside for reconstruction needs would need to be used to pay for counterinsurgency.
Read the whole thing, by James Rosen at McClatchy.
The absolute lack of accountability for funds used in all sorts of military operations is a long-observed and little-appreciated aspect of the "fog of war." All sorts of funds and material goes missing on a massive scale. If your country wins, there's very little interest in bringing down the celebration with responsible accounting. And if your country loses, well, there's no reason to rub salt in the wound now is there?
The sad, disturbing result is an endless cycle of mismanagement and malfeasance and big- and small-time war profiteering that only occassionally surfaces in works such as Arthur Miller's All My Sons, Joseph Heller's Catch-22, and the TV series M*A*S*H. Which in no way counts as proper accounting for either misspent tax dollars or, far more important, the lives of men and women who answer their country's call to service.