An ineffective $8 billion counternarcotics effort, $500 million worth of cargo planes that had to be turned into scrap metal and a $30 million program to grow crops that nobody wants — those are just some of the examples of how US funds have been wasted in Afghanistan.

While taxpayers have every right to be upset about how their money has been squandered, they might feel even more strongly about the lack of consequences for those who spend it so unwisely.

“We don’t hold people accountable for losing and wasting taxpayer money,” John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), told WhoWhatWhy in an exclusive interview.

“People have got to be fired, people have got to lose promotions, people have got to be demoted. And only when that happens will we start to see really significant changes with protecting the taxpayer’s dollar.”

The special inspector general says his team is doing all it can in a difficult environment. Its criminal investigators have recovered nearly $1 billion in fines and restitution. Although dozens of people have been indicted when crimes were committed, Sopko noted that most of the problems he and his team encounter are not related to theft.

“It isn’t criminality,” he said “It’s just waste and abuse.”

And in those cases, despite the vast sums involved, not much is happening with regard to personal responsibility...


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