A top government watchdog says the Pentagon wound up junking nearly $160 million of military equipment it purchased but never actually made it into the hands of the Afghan National Army (ANA).
In its latest quarterly report to Congress the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) states that the Defense Department, which can reclaim equipment Afghan forces say they don’t need, only exercised that option for about $16 million worth of equipment out of a total of roughly $175 million purchased.
The figures are striking when set against a backdrop of the security situation plaguing Afghanistan. There are around 10,000 U.S. troops in the country today and President Obama repeatedly said he wants that footprint to shrink to 1,000 by the end of 2016.
But a resurgent Taliban, a nascent government in Kabul, and concerns over violence after U.S. soldiers leave--similar to the kind that wracked Iraq after the US withdrawal there--has forced the president to put his envisioned drawdown on hold.
In all, DOD chose to scrap $136 million in aircraft, $9 million in troop enclosures, $7.9 million in vehicles, $3.5 million in Humvees and $1.1 million in other materials, like cranes and forklifts, according to federal auditors.
Nearly $5.4 million worth of vehicles, $4.4 million in unnecessary communications equipment and $1.7 million in office equipment did strike DOD’s fancy and was salvaged.
One of the reasons for the drop-off could be that auditors found that Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF), which encapsulates all of the nation’s security forces and police, are less capable than in the past.
While the ANDSF has grown in size and narrowed its attrition rates, collectively it is less capable and still suffers from a high casualty rate. Auditors basing their assessment on a range of categories, including leadership, command and control and sustainment within the various forces concluded that ANDSF earned the top three rankings in 10 percent fewer categories than last quarter.
This quarter the ANDSF "was assessed as less capable than last quarter under the new DOD assessment report, and the Resolute Support Mission lowered the capacity levels the Afghan Ministries of Defense and Interior are expected to achieve by the end 2016," according to SIGAR.
Since 2002, Congress has appropriated almost $110 billion for Afghanistan reconstruction. About $12 billion of those funds have still not been spent.