[Congressional Record Volume 162, Number 41 (Tuesday, March 15, 2016)]
[Pages H1349-H1351]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]




                 WASTE, FRAUD, AND ABUSE IN AFGHANISTAN

  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The Chair recognizes the gentleman from 
North Carolina (Mr. Jones) for 5 minutes.
  Mr. JONES. Mr. Speaker, yesterday I came back to Washington, as my 
colleagues did, and I saw the headlines in Politico that said: Hill GOP 
on the Hot Seat Ahead of Recess. It was a piece about the leadership's 
effort to pass a $1.7 trillion budget.
  Mr. Speaker, we are headed off a fiscal cliff, with over $19 trillion 
in debt. Yet, Congress keeps driving toward that cliff.
  Like most Members of Congress, I go home every weekend. I live in 
eastern North Carolina. I am very active in my district. I talk to many 
people, from

[[Page H1350]]

the grocery store to church. Many times the conversation is: Why can't 
you in Congress wake up before it is too late?
  We just heard Congressman Brooks from Alabama talk about Venezuela. 
We are headed right there just as quick as we can.
  The waste, fraud, and abuse in Afghanistan is a prime example of 
Congress not doing its job. When I tell people back home that it was 
reported recently by John Sopko, Inspector General of Afghanistan 
Reconstruction, that the Pentagon spent $6 million to buy nine goats 
from Italy, some laugh and some are just disgusted.
  How in the world could we keep funding the Pentagon when they waste 
money buying goats for $6 million? The waste of American taxpayer 
dollars in Afghanistan never ends.
  The Wall Street Journal recently ran a story titled: ``Afghan Police 
Force Struggling to Maintain Membership,'' by Jessica Donati, in which 
she reports that more than 36,000 Afghanistan policemen left the force 
last year because of Taliban attacks and poor leadership.
  We have spent $18 billion on training the Afghan police force and, 
here again, we lost 36,000. The poor taxpayer. We keep funding this 
waste in Afghanistan like we have got plenty of money. What we are 
doing in the Congress is absolute madness.
  Mr. Speaker, I will include in the Record a NBC News report titled: 
``12 Ways Your Tax Dollars Were Squandered in Afghanistan.''

                 [From www.nbcnews.com, March 5, 2016]

        12 Ways Your Tax Dollars Were Squandered in Afghanistan

                          (By Alexander Smith)

       The United States has now spent more money reconstructing 
     Afghanistan than it did rebuilding Europe at the end of World 
     War II, according to a government watchdog.
       The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan 
     Reconstruction (SIGAR) said in a statement to Congress last 
     week that when adjusted for inflation the $113.1 billion 
     plowed into the chaos-riven country outstripped the post-WWII 
     spend by at least $10 billion.
       Billions have been squandered on projects that were either 
     useless or sub-standard, or lost to waste, corruption, and 
     systemic abuse, according to SIGAR's reports.
       NBC News spoke to SIGAR's Special Inspector General John F. 
     Sopko about 12 of the most bizarre and baffling cases 
     highlighted by his team's investigations.
       Paraphrasing Albert Einstein, Sopko said the U.S.'s 
     profligate spending in Afghanistan is ``the definition of 
     insanity--doing the same things over and over again, 
     expecting a different result.''


   1. $486 million for `deathtrap' aircraft that were later sold for 
                                $32,000

       Two of the G222 aircraft in a corner of Kabul International 
     Airport in November 2013. SIGAR
       The Pentagon spent close to half a billion dollars on 20 
     Italian-made cargo planes that it eventually scrapped and 
     sold for just $32,000, according to SIGAR.
       ``These planes were the wrong planes for Afghanistan,'' 
     Sopko told NBC News. ``The U.S. had difficulty getting the 
     Afghans to fly them, and our pilots called them deathtraps. 
     One pilot said parts started falling off while he was coming 
     into land.''
       After being taken out of use in March 2013, the G222 
     aircraft, which are also referred to as the C-27A Spartan, 
     were towed to a corner of Kabul International Airport where 
     they were visible from the civilian terminal. They had 
     ``trees and bushes growing around them,'' the inspector 
     general said.
       Sixteen of the planes were scrapped and sold to a local 
     construction company for 6 cents a pound, SIGAR said. The 
     other four remained unused at a U.S. base in Germany.
       Sopko called the planes ``one of the biggest single 
     programs in Afghanistan that was a total failure.''


   2. $335 million on a power plant that used just 1 percent of its 
                                capacity

       Tarakhil Power Plant pictured in October 2009. SIGAR
       The Tarakhil Power Plant was fired up in 2009 to ``provide 
     more reliable power'' to blackout-plagued Kabul, according to 
     the United States Agency for International Development, which 
     built the facility.
       However, the ``modern'' diesel plant exported just 8,846 
     megawatt hours of power between February 2014 and April 2015, 
     SIGAR said in a letter to USAID last August. This output was 
     less than 1 percent of the plant's capacity and provided just 
     0.35 percent of power to Kabul, a city of 4.6 million people.
       Furthermore, the plants ``frequent starts and stops . . . 
     place greater wear and tear on the engines and electrical 
     components,'' which could result in its ``catastrophic 
     failure,'' the watchdog said.
       USAID responded to SIGAR's report in June 2015, saying: 
     ``We have no indication that [Afghan state-run utility 
     company] Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat (DABS), failed to 
     operate Tarakhil as was alleged in your letter.''


       3. Almost $500,000 on buildings that `melted' in the rain

       The dry-fire range in Wardak is pictured in February 2013. 
     SIGAR
       U.S. officials directed and oversaw the construction of an 
     Afghan police training facility in 2012 that was so poorly 
     built that its walls actually fell apart in the rain. The 
     $456,669 dry-fire range in Wardak province was ``not only an 
     embarrassment, but, more significantly, a waste of U.S. 
     taxpayers' money,'' SIGAR's report said in January 2015.
       It was overseen by the U.S. Central Command's Joint Theater 
     Support Contracting Command and contracted out to an Afghan 
     firm, the Qesmatullah Nasrat Construction Company.
       SIGAR said this ``melting'' started just four months after 
     the building was finished in October 2012. It blamed U.S. 
     officials' bad planning and failure to hold to account the 
     Afghan construction firm, which used poor-quality materials. 
     The U.S. subsequently contracted another firm to rebuild the 
     facility.
       Sopko called the incident ``baffling.''


 4. $34.4 million on a soybean program for a country that doesn't eat 
                                soybeans

       Some of the remaining soybean inventory in March 2014 after 
     it was imported from the U.S. to Afghanistan. SIGAR
       ``Afghans apparently have never grown or eaten soybeans 
     before,'' SIGAR said in its June 2014 report. This did not 
     stop the U.S. Department of Agriculture funding a $34.4 
     million program by the American Soybean Association to try to 
     introduce the foodstuff into the country in 2010.
       The project ``did not meet expectations,'' the USDA 
     confirmed to SIGAR, largely owing to inappropriate farming 
     conditions in Afghanistan and the fact no one wanted to buy a 
     product they had never eaten.
       ``They didn't grow them, they didn't eat them, there was no 
     market for them, and yet we thought it was a good Idea,'' 
     Sopko told NBC News.
       ``What is troubling about this particular project is that 
     it appears that many of these problems could reasonably have 
     been foreseen and, therefore, possibly avoided,'' the 
     inspector general wrote in a letter to Agriculture Secretary 
     Tom Vilsack in June 2014.


 5. One general's explanation why 1,600 fire-prone buildings weren't a 
                                problem

       Fire breaks out at an arch-span building at the Afghan 
     National Army's Camp Sayer in October 2012. SIGAR
       The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built some 2,000 buildings 
     to be used as barracks, medical clinics and fire stations by 
     the Afghan National Army as part of a $1.57-billion program. 
     When two fires in October and December 2012 revealed that 
     around 80 percent of these structures did not meet 
     international building regulations for fire safety, Sopko 
     said he was ``troubled'' by the ``arrogant'' response from a 
     senior USACE chief.
       Major General Michael R. Eyre, commanding general of 
     USACE's Transatlantic Division, said the risk of fire was 
     acceptable because ``the typical occupant populations for 
     these facilities are young, fit Afghan soldiers.'' Writing in 
     a January 2014 memo published by SIGAR, Eyre said these 
     recruits ``have the physical ability to make a hasty retreat 
     during a developing situation.''
       Sopko told NBC News that Eyre's comments ``showed a really 
     poor attitude toward our allies.'' He added: ``It was an 
     unbelievable arrogance, and I'm sorry to say that about a 
     senior officer.''


 6. A $600,000 hospital where infants were washed in dirty river water

       A room in Salang hospital in January 2004. SIGAR
       Despite the Department of Defense spending $597,929 on 
     Salang Hospital in Afghanistan's Parwan province, the 20-bed 
     facility has been forced to resort to startling medical 
     practices.
       ``Because there was no clean water, staff at the hospital 
     were washing newborns with untreated river water,'' SIGAR's 
     report said in January 2014. It added that the ``poorly 
     constructed'' building was also at increased ``risk of 
     structural collapse during an earthquake.''
       NBC News visited the hospital in January 2014 and witnessed 
     some disturbing practices: a doctor poking around a dental 
     patient's mouth with a pair of unsterilized scissors before 
     yanking out another's tooth with a pair of pliers.
       The United States Forces-Afghanistan responded to SIGAR's 
     report in January 2014 saying it would investigate why the 
     building was not constructed to standard.
       In a separate report, SIGAR said that USAID reimbursed the 
     International Organization for Migration for spiraling costs 
     while building Gardez Hospital, in Paktia province.
       The IOM's ``weak internal controls'' meant it paid $300,000 
     for just 600 gallons of diesel fuel--a price of $500 per 
     gallon when market prices should not have exceeded $5, SIGAR 
     said.


7. $36 million on a military facility that several generals didn't want

       An unused room at the so-called ``64K'' facility. SIGAR
       The so-called ``64K'' command-and-control facility at 
     Afghanistan's Camp Leatherneck cost $36 million and was ``a 
     total waste of U.S. taxpayer funds,'' SIGAR's report said in 
     May 2015.
       The facility in Helmand province--named because it measured 
     64,000 square feet--was intended to support the U.S. troop 
     surge of 2010.
       However, a year before its construction, the very general 
     in charge of the surge asked

[[Page H1351]]

     that it not be built because the existing facilities were 
     ``more than sufficient,'' the watchdog said. But another 
     general denied this cancellation request, according to SIGAR, 
     because he said it would not be ``prudent'' to quit a project 
     for which funds had already been appropriated by Congress.
       Ultimately, construction did not begin until May 2011, two 
     months before the drawdown of the troops involved in surge. 
     Sopko found the ``well-built and newly furnished'' building 
     totally untouched in June 2013, with plastic sheets still 
     covering the furniture.
       ``Again, nobody was held to account,'' Sopko told NBC News, 
     adding it was a ``gross . . . really wasteful, extremely 
     wasteful amount of money.''
       He added: ``We have thrown too much money at the country. 
     We pour in money not really thinking about it.''


  8. $39.6 million that created an awkward conversation for the U.S. 
                               ambassador

       A now-defunct Pentagon task force spent almost $40 million 
     on Afghanistan's oil, mining and gas industry--but no one 
     remembered to tell America's diplomats in Kabul, according to 
     SIGAR, citing a senior official at the U.S. embassy in the 
     city.
       In fact, the first the U.S. ambassador knew about the 
     multi-billion-dollar spend was when Afghan government 
     officials thanked him for his country's support, SIGAR said.
       The project, administered by the Task Force for Business 
     and Stability Operations (TFBSO), was part of a wider $488 
     million investment that also included the State Department 
     and USAID. These organizations ``failed to coordinate and 
     prioritize'' their work, which created ``poor working 
     relationships, and . . . potential sustainability problems,'' 
     according to SIGAR.
       It was, according to Sopko, ``a real disaster.''
       One USAID official told the watchdog it would take the U.S. 
     ``100 years'' to complete the necessary infrastructure and 
     training Afghanistan needs to completely develop these 
     industries.


9. $3 million for the purchase--and then mystery cancellation--of eight 
                                 boats

       One of the eight boats sitting in a Virginia warehouse in 
     June 2014. SIGAR
       SIGAR said the U.S. military has been unable to provide 
     records answering ``the most basic questions'' surrounding 
     the mystery purchase and cancellation of eight patrol boats 
     for landlocked Afghanistan.
       The scant facts SIGAR were able to find indicated the boats 
     were bought in 2010 to be used by the Afghan National Police, 
     and that they were intended to be deployed along the 
     country's northern river border with Uzbekistan.
       ``The order was cancelled--without explanation--nine months 
     later,'' SIGAR said. The boats were still sitting unused at a 
     Navy warehouse in Yorktown, Virginia, as of 2014.
       ``We bought in a navy for a landlocked country,'' Sopko 
     said.


  10. $7.8 billion fighting drugs--while Afghans grow more opium than 
                                  ever

       Afghan farmers harvest opium sap from a poppy field in 
     Nangarhar province in May 2015. NOORULLAH SHIRZADA/AFP--Getty 
     Images, file
       Despite the U.S. plowing some $7.8 billion into stopping 
     Afghanistan's drug trade, ``Afghan farmers are growing more 
     opium than ever before,'' SIGAR reported in December 2014.
       ``Poppy-growing provinces that were once declared `poppy 
     free' have seen a resurgence in cultivation,'' it said, 
     noting that internationally funded irrigation projects may 
     have actually increased poppy growth in recent years.
       The ``fragile gains'' the U.S. has made on Afghan health, 
     education and rule of law were being put in ``jeopardy or 
     wiped out by the narcotics trade, which not only supports the 
     insurgency, but also feeds organized crime and corruption,'' 
     Sopko told U.S. lawmakers in January 2014.
       Afghanistan is the world's leader in the production of 
     opium. In 2013, the value of Afghan opium was $3 billion--
     equivalent to 15 percent of the country's GDP--according to 
     the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime.
       Sopko told NBC News the picture is no more optimistic 
     today. ``No matter which metric you use, this effort has been 
     a real failure,'' he said.


            11. $7.8 million on a nearly-empty business park

       The entrance to Shorandam Industrial Park in June 2014. 
     SIGAR
       The USAID-funded Shorandam industrial Park in Kandahar 
     province was transferred to the Afghan government in 
     September 2010 with the intention of accommodating 48 
     business and hundreds of local employees. Four years later, 
     SIGAR inspectors found just one active company operating 
     there.
       This was due to the U.S. military building a power plant on 
     one-third of the industrial park to provide electricity to 
     nearby Kandahar City, causing ``entrepreneurs to shy away 
     from setting up businesses'' at the site, SIGAR said in its 
     report of April 2015.
       After the military withdrew in mid-2014, the investigators 
     were told that at least four Afghan businesses had moved into 
     the industrial park. However, SIGAR said that it could not 
     complete a thorough inspection because USAID's contract files 
     were ``missing important documentation.''


 12. $81.9 million on incinerators that either weren't used or harmed 
                                 troops

       The DOD spent nearly $82 million on nine incineration 
     facilities in Afghanistan--yet four of them never fired their 
     furnaces, SIGAR said in February 2015. These four dormant 
     facilities had eight incinerators between them and the 
     wastage cost $20.1 million.
       In addition, SIGAR inspectors said it was ``disturbing'' 
     that ``prohibited items,'' such as tires and batteries, 
     continued to be burned in Afghanistan's 251 burn pits. U.S. 
     military personnel were also exposed to emissions from these 
     pits ``that could have lasting negative health 
     consequences,'' the watchdog said.
       The Department of Defense said it was ``vitally interested 
     in exploring all possible ways to save taxpayer dollars and 
     ensure we are good stewards of government resources.''
       A spokesman added: ``We'll continue to work with SIGAR, and 
     other agencies, to help get to the bottom of any reported 
     issues or concerns.''
       A spokesman for Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani 
     declined to comment on this story.

  Mr. JONES. Some of the most egregious examples of waste in this list 
are the $486 million the Pentagon paid for deathtrap aircraft that were 
scrapped and sold for $32,000. You spend $486 million and what you get 
back is scrap. It costs $32,000. Also, $500,000 on training facilities 
for Afghan police that melted in the rain. The poor American taxpayer.
  John Sopko, the Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, has 
told Congress on many occasions to look at the waste, fraud, and abuse 
in Afghanistan. Yet, every year we will pass appropriations bills on 
the floor of the House to continue to spend billions of dollars in 
Afghanistan. I do not understand it.
  It is time for America to wake up. It is time for the Congress to 
wake up and bring our troops home from Afghanistan. It is time to say 
to Afghanistan: Fight it out, if you want to. It is your country.
  Afghanistan is the graveyard of empires. There is a headstone in that 
graveyard that says: America, I am waiting for you. You are headed for 
this graveyard.

                          ____________________