A US government watchdog has accused a Pentagon agency of wasting millions on “ill-conceived” reconstruction projects in Afghanistan. The Task Force for Business and Stability Operations spent some $800m (£563m) on development projects over a five-year period. But poor planning and waste marred the scheme, Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction John Sopko said.
The Pentagon has disputed several of his findings. Among those highlighted by Mr Sopko, who appeared before senators from a special committee on military management, was a project to help the local cashmere industry. The $6m ($4.2m) initiative saw a small herd of rare blond Italian goats imported – but Mr Sopko said oversight was so ineffective he could not be sure that the goats were not eaten.
A contractor said the scheme had created up to 350 jobs. Mr Sopko had “not been able to find credible evidence showing [the task force’s] activities in Afghanistan produced the intended economic growth or stabilization outcomes that justified its creation”. “On the contrary, [its] legacy in Afghanistan is marred by unfinished, poorly planned, and ill-conceived projects.”
One of the politicians on the committee, Democrat Claire McCaskill called the reported $43m expenditure on a natural gas filling station “dumb on its face”. It was intended to show how Afghanistan’s natural gas reserves could be used as an alternative to expensive petroleum imports. But Ms McCaskill noted the average annual income in Afghanistan is less than the cost of converting a car to natural gas. The Pentagon disputed the cost of the station, saying the actual amount was under $10m.