[Congressional Record Volume 162, Number 41 (Tuesday, March 15, 2016)]
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
Sopko called the incident ``baffling.''
4. $34.4 million on a soybean program for a country that doesn't eat
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
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
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
``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
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
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
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.
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
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
9. $3 million for the purchase--and then mystery cancellation--of eight
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
10. $7.8 billion fighting drugs--while Afghans grow more opium than
Afghan farmers harvest opium sap from a poppy field in
Nangarhar province in May 2015. NOORULLAH SHIRZADA/AFP--Getty
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.
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
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
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