A new report by a U.S. government watchdog group says that Washington wasted millions of dollars on a poorly executed infrastructure plan in Afghanistan.
Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR) John Sopko said that the Pentagon's Task Force for Business and Stability Operations in Afghanistan had no “strategic direction” and used “a scattershot approach to economic development” at a Senate hearing Jan. 20, reports USA Today.
The U.S. government reportedly invested $800 million of taxpayer money over five years on economic and infrastructure projects in Afghanistan, reports the BBC.
Roughly $6 million dollars were reportedly allocated to import rare goats from Italy to stimulate cashmere production. Sopko said he could not be sure whether the goats were eaten due the task force’s lack of oversight.
“[We have] 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," Sopko said at the hearing, according to BBC.
“On the contrary, [its] legacy in Afghanistan is marred by unfinished, poorly planned and ill-conceived projects," he added.
U.S. lawmakers in the Senate hearing expressed their outrage at the alleged mismanagement of funds.
Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri referred to a $43 million fuel station initiative as “dumb on its face."
“This is a terrible waste of taxpayer money when we have so many other uses for it,” McCaskill said.
The fuel station in question reportedly was supposed to cost $500,000, and it could not be used by most Afghans.
Officials who headed U.S. government task forces in Afghanistan objected to the critical watchdog report.
“A meaningful and balanced review cannot be accomplished through a sustained media campaign or a practice of repeating uncorroborated allegations," Paul Brinkley, who headed the Task Force for Business and Stability Operations, wrote to the Senate Armed Services Committee, according to USA Today.
The Pentagon has responded to some of the allegations of excessive expenditures, saying that the controversial fuel station cost $5 million, rather than $43 million.
Brian McKeon, a Pentagon official, added to USA Today that the methods of the watchdog's investigation were “flawed" and that the "costs of the fuel station are far lower.”