Watchdog says $675 million wasted in Afghanistan rebuilding effort

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence poses for photos with troops at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan on Thursday, Dec. 21, 2017. (Mandel Ngan/Pool via AP)

America’s longest war is now becoming one of its most wasteful, according to one watchdog group's recent findings.

$675 million is the latest figure highlighted in a newly released report by the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, created by Congress to provide objective and independent oversight of Afghanistan reconstruction projects.

The money was lost to “poor planning, contracting, and oversight practices contributed to incomplete projects, unsatisfactory work, and delays, which resulted in waste," according to the report.

Anthony Cordesman was part of Gen. Stanley McChrystal's advisory group which helped lay out the new strategy in Afghanistan, and said the problems run deep. These include an unchecked contracting process, corrupt government officials and people with little experience overseeing projects.

“When they came, they weren’t familiar with the culture they had no background as to who they were dealing with. They came and went,” he said in an interview Tuesday.

Meanwhile, projects focused on industries like agriculture, banking oil and gas and mining were delayed -- and in many cases, never completed.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have demanded solutions for waste in Afghanistan time and time again.

“We ought to just have an environment where these deficiencies, these mistakes are caught so this gross waste of taxpayer dollars simply never occurs, said Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., a veteran himself, in a July 2017 hearing on other wasteful spending in Afghanistan.

“It’s the accountability that’s missing," said Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., during the same hearing.

Despite multiple hearings following multiple reports, the problems persist, since experts believe leaving the country without rebuilding is also not an option.

"If what you leave behind is an unstable mess, all of the factors that led to a conflict in the first place can reemerge," said Cordesman, who currently works for The Center for Strategic and International Studies.

He added: "There's little point in winning the fight if you can't then win the peace."

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who requested the audit, said in a statement "The findings are just another example of the Defense Department's failure to get its financial house in order."

So far though, no one seems to have been held accountable for the waste.

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