$19 Billion in U.S. Taxpayer Money Lost to 'Waste, Fraud, and Abuse' in Afghanistan, Watchdog Finds

President Trump delivers remarks to troops in an unannounced visit to Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, November 28, 2019.
(Tom Brenner/Reuters)

$19 billion in U.S. taxpayer money was wasted or lost in government-funded projects in Afghanistan between 2009 and 2019, according to a report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

Since 2009, SIGAR has reported on U.S. government funds that have been wasted in the course of rebuilding war-torn Afghanistan. Government and military officials have repeatedly told SIGAR that the U.S. military strategy in the country, and the effort to turn Afghanistan into a “modern” nation, was failing, according to the Washington Post‘s “Afghanistan Papers” report in 2019.

Congress has appropriated $134 billion since 2002 towards reconstruction and nation-building efforts, of which SIGAR has reviewed $63 billion, the agency stated in its new report. Of the amount reviewed, $19 billion—approximately 30 percent—has gone to waste.

SIGAR has identified $3.4 billion lost to “waste, fraud, and abuse” from January 2018 through December 2019 alone. Almost half of that sum spent on anti-narcotics operations, while various U.S.-supported reconstruction efforts were also found to lacking.

“For example, during our review of the Afghan Children Read program, which is…designed to support education service delivery by delivering books to schools, we discovered that principals and teachers at a quarter of the inspected schools found the books provided to the schools were not in usable condition,” the report stated. “In another example, during our review of the Department of State’s Good Performer’s Initiative projects in Kunduz province, we found that a sports stadium, which was built for community use, was not being used.”

The SIGAR report concludes, “Endemic corruption, widespread insecurity, and lack of accountability over on-budget assistance continue to make any investments made in Afghanistan vulnerable to waste, fraud, and abuse.”

President Trump has repeatedly pushed to withdraw all U.S. troops from the country. White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien said on Wednesday that the Pentagon would reduce troop levels in the country to 2,500 by 2021, despite pushback from Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley.

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Zachary Evans is a news writer for National Review Online. He is a veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces and a trained violist.

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