Where in Afghanistan Did $35 Billion Go?

SIGAR’s request for information from the Department of Defense.

SIGAR’s request for information from the Department of Defense.

Out of $56 billion that the Department of Defense (DOD) has spent on Afghanistan’s reconstruction, only $21 billion can be properly accounted for.

The $35 billion discrepancy is revealed in a new report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR).

SIGAR’s core mission is “to prevent and detect waste, fraud and abuse” in the Afghanistan aid program. Yet the Pentagon is claiming that it would be “extremely labor intensive to compile information” on how exactly the remaining $35 billion has been used.

Here is a letter from SIGAR asking the DOD to make more information available, and here is the Pentagon’s response as to why it could not.

In all, Congress appropriated $104 billion for Afghanistan reconstruction between 2002 and 2014. Of the $66 billion that went to DOD, $56 million has been committed to outside contractors. The SIGAR report offers a fine-grained analysis of the $21 billion in contracts that DOD was able to track — while drawing attention to the $35 billion “gap” in accountability.

As a point of reference, Afghanistan’s gross domestic product in 2013 was $20.65 billion, according to the CIA’s World Factbook.

The vast majority of the money that was adequately tracked went to the Afghan Security Forces Fund (ASFF). Exactly what this money bought may never be known. In 2014, the Inspector General of the DOD issued a report that found the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan lacked “the ministerial capability and capacity to manage and oversee ASFF direct contributions.”

The next largest recipient of DOD funds was the Drug Interdiction and Counter-Drug Activities fund (DOD CN); the lion’s share of this allocation ($569 million) went to the Academi Training Center. Academi is part of a successor company to the former security contractor Blackwater. In 2014, one former Blackwater agent was convicted of murder while three others were convicted of manslaughter and weapons charges for the 2007 deaths of 17 Iraqi civilians.

Afghan security forces on the ground.

Afghan security forces on the ground.

The SIGAR report does not imply that the Pentagon acted illegally or even inappropriately. The main problem seems to be that DOD procedures before 2010 did not properly sync with the Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS). The report does not say whether any steps are being taken to provide the public with the “detailed and comprehensive information” needed to supply a full accounting of “how and where our reconstruction funds are spent.”

The Pentagon is notorious for overspending and losing track of money. If the latest SIGAR report is any indication, it looks like business as usual in Afghanistan.

Where else do you see journalism of this quality and value?

Please help us do more. Make a tax-deductible contribution now.

Our Comment Policy

Keep it civilized, keep it relevant, keep it clear, keep it short. Please do not post links or promotional material. We reserve the right to edit and to delete comments where necessary.

print

13 responses to “Where in Afghanistan Did $35 Billion Go?”

  1. […] for losing track of things goes to the U.S. Defense Department for being unable to account for $35 billion in construction aid to Afghanistan, which is about $14 billion more than the country’s GDP. The […]

  2. Dr Smileyface says:

    $35 million’s small change compared to the $2 trillion mentioned by D Rumsfeld on September 10th 2001.

    • cactuspie says:

      Amen! If any business ran the way the government and pentagon do, they’d be out of business.

    • ICFubar says:

      yes and a further 1.3 trillion the next year from the DoD. Other Federal departments have also had huge amounts of cash spent and not accounted for. Other western democracies have had similar experiences but not on the same scale. Canada’s Hertitage Minister couldn’t account for three billion….all told the estimate is around 40 trillion over the years counting 27 T for the bailouts in the total.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w0mimIp8mr8

  3. dogjudge says:

    The Republicans have complained about unnecessary spending since Obama took office. They were never really worried about W.

    So W keeps the Iraq/Afghanistan wars “off the books”. We’re coming off of those wars, so instead of the DOD budget being cut significantly what do the Republicans want to do in their new budget? INCREASE DOD spending.

    Gee. This 31 Billion could just about pay for the 40 Billion they gave the oil companies.

    • prezOworst says:

      What $40 billion? How much annully do the oil companies pay in taxes? Google it chief!

    • dogjudge says:

      Let’s see if you can figure this out.

      That 40 BILLION gave them 40 BILLION in less taxes, or viewed another way 40 BILLION in MORE profits.

      Exxon, 2014, had the HIGHEST revenues and and the HIGHEST earnings before taxes of ANY company in the US.

      It isn’t as if we’re keeping them from going bankrupt.

      I know my business, and the businesses of about 100 of my friends didn’t get any money from the federal government.

      By your logic, the more money a company makes (or and individual) the LESS they should pay in taxes.

      Let me guess. Tea party. Right?

      Economics is a foreign language to you folks.

  4. mark foley says:

    Yes, why can’t I ‘share’ this article on Facebook (don’t be telling me it’s glitch.)?

  5. wstockwin says:

    We’ve lost a helluva lot more than $35 billion in the vast, never-audited fiscal swamp known as The Pentagon over the years. Unfortunately the military/industrial complex owns Congress outright, so the odds are slim-to-none that we will ever get even a glimpse of the actual amount stolen from U.S. taxpayers.

  6. Kathy says:

    Why can’t I share this article to Facebook? Not “like” it, but “share” it.

  7. lofty1 says:

    Too much money going to government contractors for wrong solutions to the wrong problems. It’s been the problem from the get go in both Iraq and Afghanistan. http://original.antiwar.com/vlahos/2013/08/12/is-afghanistan-a-dead-man-walking/

    I’m sure all the recipients (i.e. US war contractors and Afghan power brokers du jour) of this largesse with no accountability would like to keep it that way.
    So who is preventing SIGAR (i.e. John Sopko) from getting the answer to the question of the $35 billion? Did the Pentagon officials (Jennifer Walsh et al) ever meet with him?