Pentagon

If You Find $1.3 Billion in Missing Aid to Afghanistan, Please Contact the Pentagon at Your Earliest Convenience.

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Defense Dept.

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.

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  1. You know – it would be strangely *reassuring* if a good portion of those missing dollars was going to pad the retirement accounts of senior military leaders.

    At least then it’d look like they knew what they were doing.

    1. +1 Air America

    2. it would be strangely *reassuring* if a good portion of those missing dollars was going to pad the retirement accounts of senior military leaders.

      Reminds me of a time a cashier I worked with got fired after his drawer was ~ $400 short after an audit; one of the floor managers said, “Geez, I hope he stole the money. If he messed up that bad he’s just stupid.”

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      http://www.work-cash.com

  2. If I happen to find it then I will send them a thank you note from my private island

  3. *rummages through couch*

    1. I hear a big chunk of that change was spent on hosting special parties for Secret Service personel in foreign countries. Booze, blow and bitchez ain’t cheap.

  4. If I find $1.3 billion, I’m becoming Dr. Evil and getting sharks with frickin’ laser beams on their heads. Fuck the Pentagon.

    1. Can someone throw me a frickin’ bone here?

    2. Epi, if you found that money you’d just blow it all on tacos and public broadcasting.

      1. Public?!?

      2. It’s the only way to get those snazzy tote bags. [note: DOD does not provide tote bags]

        1. Apparently you have never been through a CIF and gotten all the gear…the smaller pack is suspiciously tote-bag sized.

        1. What of the occasional Mexican for hire?

  5. The comment didn’t explain why money set aside for reconstruction needs would need to be used to pay for counterinsurgency.

    Uh, you can’t budget for a counterinsurgency like it’s an aboveboard cost. Duh.

    1. I managed just under $1M in CERP funds in 2004-2005. It was EXPRESSLY prohibited to spend any of that money on anything force related. We dug a shitload of wells, built some agricultural stuff (one was a building and drying racks for a raisin co-op) even tried to get a couple of schools up and running.

      I was in constant fear of misuse or loss or theft any of that money. Looks like I could have just not given a fuck about being entrusted with $ wrung from taxpayers.

      1. A fiscally responsible military officer? Apparently you are like a unicorn, or a female libertarian, or…

  6. Yep. This convinces me that all the warhawk TEAM RED idiots are correct, and we’re clearly CUTTING THE MILITARY TO THE BONE, and need to increase the miiltary budget.

    Cause – freedom

    1. I knew someone who was an auditor for the Navy for decades. I asked him one time what happened when he found irregularities. His answer: “They get filed appropriately”

      1. Oh, we would catch people and see them off to Club Fed:

        http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/…..m-airfield

        I tired to get that shitbird on something else, much more minor – I knew he was dirty, but little did I know, he was going to get it far worse.

  7. No Kelly’s Heroes reference?

    I’m sad. And like Agammamon said, I’d be happier knowing that money went to some enterprising leathernecks.

    1. “No Kelly’s Heroes reference?”

      Kilroy was here.

    2. “Like, so many positive waves maybe we can’t lose.”

  8. I’m not sure which problem is bigger. We can’t account for 6 out of 10 dollars we sent to Afghanistan. Or, we can account for the dollar we sent to Afghanistan, we just don’t care.

    http://rt.com/usa/194752-us-pl…..d-scandal/

  9. “The Defense Department can’t account for $1.3 billion that was shipped to force commanders”

    Shipped? Like unmarked bills stuffed in duffel bags?

    1. That’ll turn out to be the real scandal that sinks careers.

      Colonel So-and-So, we are extremely disappointed in your unethical behavior in keeping, for personal use, the duffel bags that held the money we shipped you to bribe the Afghani president. You transferred that money into plastic garbage bags and did not properly account for the disposition of those duffel bags, which we have found were distributed to your troops.

    2. ^This. I suspect that there are people who know where a lot of that money went – cash bribes to locals. And of course some of that got skimmed off, as often happens with unaccountable cash. It’s the perfect win-win; can’t talk about the money because the bribes are classified, can’t prosecute the skimming without revealing the bribery.

      1. See my 2:05 PM above – skimmed did happen. Or kickbacks.

        Most of the bribery, I think, was Chicago style – contracts. The work might be done, might be done half-assed or mostly assed. But it was “steered”.

        1. Thanks, Switzy. Hadn’t read all the comments above. Thanks for your efforts to keep things honest.

          1. Shit like this makes me burn with anger.

    3. Yes, cash.

      I did the quarterly cash inventory inspection at Bagram, AF. Usually $17M+ US, 6M Afghani, and a few hundred thousand Euros…

      You know that $100,000 US comes in some big cubes of wrapped and bound bills? The Afghan currency was much more colorful, but not so neatly packaged.

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