THE BLOG

The U.S. Has No Idea How Much Taxpayer Money It's Burning on the Afghanistan Bonfire

We don't have any idea how much money we're sinking into supporting the corrupt government in Kabul, Afghanistan. We don't know how much we pay to the Afghan government in salary supplements, and we don't know who or how many people receive it. That's according to the Special Inspector for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), who released another report today showing just how outrageously out of control U.S. government spending is on a war that's not worth the cost.

Here's what Special Inspector General Arnold Fields had to say:

"It is outrageous that the US government can't even determine the amount we pay to support Afghan government employees or how many people are paid. This lack of accountability puts U.S. money at serious risk of waste, fraud and abuse."

The Special Inspector General is being too kind. Risk is when something may happen. Taxpayer money is not at risk of waste, fraud and abuse. The waste, fraud and abuse is happening for certain. SIGAR shared an outrageous example of just how little accountability there is in the way the administration is spending our money in Afghanistan:

"[O]ne senior official in the Afghan President's office received a monthly salary supplement of $5,000 from USAID in addition to his monthly government salary of $2,000 and a monthly $1,400 hospitality allowance. That official kept his $5,000 monthly supplement when he left his position to assume a senior position at a ministry that was not part of the USAID salary support program."

In the first place: we were paying some guy in the corrupt Office of the President in Afghanistan an extra $6,400 on top of his regular salary? And in the second place: we just let him keep having $5,000 a month--for nothing!--after he left his job?

I just want to point out that this is all while the administration is putting together a Catfood Commission (tm) to figure out where to cut some little old lady's Social Security because we're so tight on cash back at home.

This is only one example from SIGAR's report. The report goes on and on, detailing the absolutely unbelievable waste of scarce resources on a corrupt, unaccountable government in Afghanistan. The report says USAID violated its own policies against supplementing the income of policymakers, and some members of the Afghan administration claim they didn't even know that their subordinates were being paid by foreign donor money in addition to their regular salary. SIGAR discloses that the supplements paid to Afghan government employees can be as high as 20 times their government salary, and many of the positions funded are actually outside the formal organization of the government. This endangers the long-term viability of the Afghan government, according to the report:

"Afghan and donor officials are concerned that donor salary support may be replacing, rather than building, the capacity of the Afghan government. Salary support undermines long-term capacity development if recipients leave their positions after donors stop paying their higher salaries. Because technical advisors' salaries are often tied to specific programs, their employment ends when donors stop providing salary support. For example, 6 of 10 technical advisors in the High Office of Oversight who were serving as acting heads of departments left soon after USAID announced it would stop funding salary support to the office in March 2010. In Afghanistan, technical advisors often perform governmental functions rather than guide and mentor government employees; therefore, when they leave their positions, the Afghan government is left without the skill sets on which they relied."

Prior to March 2010, as much as 30 percent of the aid were were providing to the Afghan government was going to non-essential functions like gardening and dorm mother positions. And, much of the aid is tied to people, not positions, leading to ridiculous mishandling of aid meant to build critical government capacity, such as described above in the example from the Afghan Office of the President.

This egregious waste is made even more intolerable by what we know about the general behavior of Karzai's inner circle. We know, for instance, that Karzai and his immediate family are key players in the Kabul Bank scandal, wherein huge sums of money that originated from international donors was used to buy palatial homes on the luxurious Palm Jumeriah island in Dubai and used as kickbacks for cronies. It would be bad enough if SIGAR were reporting on our donations to a reliable, relatively fraud-free ally, but it's unbelievable we'd be throwing this kind of money at this kind of recipient.

How much longer are the American people supposed to watch the administration throw our tax dollars on the Afghanistan bonfire? The military push enabled by the escalations isn't working, and the ally we're relying on is a corrupt fraud, and the spending we're doing to support that ally is being handed out with little accountability.

The war isn't making us safer, and it's not worth the cost. If you're fed up with this fiasco, join the tens of thousands of others working to end the war at Rethink Afghanistan on Facebook and Twitter.