Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) John F. Sopko, who took over on July 2, 2012, has made significant progress in the short period of time he has been in charge.
In October, a SIGAR investigation found that an Afghan contractor had “failed to install metal grates to prevent insurgents from planting improvised explosive devices (IEDs) inside culverts.” Upon further investigation, it was found that some grates were improperly or poorly installed while others were not installed at all. This left the culverts located along major highways in country accessible to insurgents with IED material. Thanks to the identification of the contract fraud, SIGAR was able to notify the military of the oversight and have it addressed, helping to prevent further injuries or deaths to U.S. and NATO troops.
SIGAR’s work in fraud prevention has not only helped save U.S. tax dollars from being wasted (a total of 206 companies have been banned from DOD contractual work). It has also weakened U.S. enemies by preventing them from obtaining funds from U.S. contractors. As of September, SIGAR has identified 43 contractors who “were affiliated with the Haqqani Network, the Taliban, and/or Al Qaeda.”
SIGAR has made a great effort to identify and terminate contracts in which payments are made to individuals and corporations who support the insurgents. This push comes on the heels of a 2011 report that found that the U.S. was indirectly funding the Taliban with a large portion of a $2.16 billion contract involving the U.S. supply chain in Afghanistan.
SIGAR has also been working to investigate U.S. actions that could lead to waste of taxpayer money. A recent SIGAR audit found that the U.S.-led training force Combined Security Transition Command–Afghanistan (CSTC-A) could not “accurately account for over $1.1 billion in fuel it had provided” to the Afghanistan National Army (ANA).
Even more incredulous, the CSTC-A, which is tasked with training and logistically supporting the ANA, had recently made a proposal that would increase the ANA’s annual funding for fuel to $555 million per year for 2014 through 2018. SIGAR’s audit prompted Representatives Jason Chaffetz (R–UT) and John Tierney (D–MA) to introduce legislation that would impose stringent guidelines requiring more oversight on the Department of Defense’s Petroleum, Oils, and Lubricants program.
Former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker rightly noted that “Afghanistan collapsed after the Soviet withdrawal [in 1989] when the money stopped. No one wants to see history repeat itself. If we have to ante up a little more than intended, it is still pretty cheap insurance.”
The U.S. will need to be engaged with Afghanistan long after U.S. combat troops are withdrawn to prevent the re-establishment of terrorist bases within the country. While continued monetary support should be part of that engagement, it is crucial that the SIGAR continue its vital work of ensuring that money is not just being thrown at issues that arise but is instead being used wisely and prudently.
Andrew Hoffman is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit http://www.heritage.org/about/departments/ylp.cfm.