The Defense Department released an internal report on Thursday that claims they cannot account for $1.3 billion in money that was given to commanders in Afghanistan from 2004 through 2014. The money was 60 percent of the funds in the Commander’s Emergency Response Program (CERP), an emergency program that pays for critical reconstruction projects in the country. It’s a drop in the bucket compared to another report released in March which found that the Department of Defense had lost track of a total of $45 billion dollars used in long-term reconstruction projects.
The CERP program began in 2004, under the Bush Administration, and authorized money to be routed directly to military officials in Afghanistan with the hopes that critical reconstruction programs would be finished faster. It was supposed to provide “an immediate, positive impact on the local population” while large reconstruction projects were getting off the ground. However, after a year-long investigation by John F. Sopko, the U.S. special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, nobody can figure out what over half of the money actually paid for.
Sopko’s report claims that the Pentagon either couldn’t or wouldn’t account for the funds:
In reviewing this data, SIGAR found that the Department of Defense could only provide financial information relating to the disbursement of funds for CERP projects totaling $890 million (40 percent) of the approximately $2.2 billion in obligated funds at that time. [Source]
His staff divided up the program’s expenditures into 20 categories ranging from healthcare, sanitation, and transportation. According to the report 4,494 projects fit into those twenty categories. Then there was the 21st category called “unknown” that accounted for 5,163 projects totaling more than a billion dollars.
This isn’t the first time Sopko, an Obama appointee, has documented billions of dollars in missing money that was attributed to waste or corruption. In 2013, the inspector found that the U.S. was continuing to give Afghan forces $1.4 billion for “gasoline” through 2018, even though money was missing from that fund as well. Last July, he and his staff found that many of the hundreds of thousands of excess AK-47 assault rifles and other weapons the Pentagon had shipped to Afghanistan over the last decade have vanished, most likely either resold on the black market, re-appropriated for drug trafficking, or are now being used by Taliban insurgents against the Afghan security forces.
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Although the (inspector general’s) report is technically accurate, it did not discuss the counterinsurgency strategies in relationship to CERP,” the Central Command said in a Feb. 25 email to Sopko’s office. “In addition (to) the 20 uses of CERP funds, it was also used as a tool for counterinsurgency.
Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.