Tag Archives: Defense Waste

After Fall of Yemen, US Officials Fear Terrorists Have Seized $500 Million in US-Donated Weapons

For years, the US has engaged in a counter-terrorism strategy in Yemen involving aggressive drone strikes and the donation of over $500 million in weapons and equipment to Yemen’s US-backed government. However, these moves aimed at defeating al-Qaeda in Yemen have produced an array of unintended consequences, which appear to be spiraling out of control.

First, local anxiety over US drone strikes led to a January 2015 uprising by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, who toppled Yemen’s government suddenly, taking US officials by surprise. The fall of Yemen has been compared to ISIS’ taking of Mosul in that, in both cases, US-trained-and-funded soldiers refused to fight as rebels launched their attacks. Additionally, al-Qaeda has reportedly seized some of the collapsed Yemeni government’s bases. In February, the US closed its embassy in Yemen, and rebels stole vehicles that were left behind during the evacuation.

Meanwhile, according to The Washington Post, Pentagon officials recently admitted that they have lost track of the over $500 million in military assistance that the US has given to Yemen’s failed government. The lost equipment includes M-16 and M-4 rifles, over a million rounds of ammo, Glock pistols, night vision goggles, drones, helicopters, surveillance aircraft, and patrol boats. US officials planned to send $125 million in additional aid, including ScanEagle drones, but instead redirected the shipments to other Middle Eastern and African nations following Yemen’s collapse.

An anonymous legislative aid told The Washington Post, “We have to assume [the weapons are] completely compromised and gone.” Though Pentagon officials say that there is no specific evidence demonstrating that al-Qaeda or Houthi rebels have obtained the US-donated weapons and equipment, the Department of Defense has admitted that it has lost track of the items. Given the fact that both al-Qaeda and the Houthi rebels have seized many Yemeni bases, the prevailing logic in Washington DC is that the shipments have likely been claimed by the anti-US groups.

In 2014, President Barack Obama pointed to his counter-terrorism strategy in Yemen as an example of a War on Terror foreign policy success story. “The administration really wanted to stick with this narrative that Yemen was different from Iraq, that we were going to do it with fewer people, that we were going to do it on the cheap,” said Congressman Mac Thornberry (R-TX).

US-Funded Iraqi Army Spent Over $380 Million Per Year Paying 50,000 Nonexistent Soldiers

Newly-elected Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced on Sunday that his administration has stopped payment on salaries that were being issued to at least 50,000 nonexistent soldiers, previously believed to be among the ranks of the Iraqi army. According to BBC News, the fake names on the Iraqi army’s roster included deserters and soldiers who were killed in action. Abadi administration officials believe that corrupt officers may have been leaving the names on the roster in an effort to steal their salaries.

Under previous Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi army crumbled in the face of ISIS, as four if its fourteen divisions collapsed during June clashes. Haider al-Abadi previously promised that, as prime minister, he would clean up the Iraqi army. Now in office, Abadi has offered his investigation into the fraudulent salary claims as a first step.

The Washington Post noted that officials said that the Iraqi government, which pays $600 per month to its troops, has been wasting at least $380 million per year on the misappropriated payments. “It could be more than triple this number… The people who are responsible for this should be punished. Iraq’s safe has been emptied,” said Hamid ­al-Mutlaq from the Council of Representatives of Iraq’s defense and security committee.

US taxpayers have already spent over $20 billion dollars in an attempt to strengthen the failing Iraqi military, and, according to Foreign Policy, the Pentagon is planning to request $1.6 billion more from Congress in an effort to build nine new Iraqi army brigades. The Obama administration has also requested $24 million in US taxpayer funds to train and equip Sunni tribal fighters that claim to oppose ISIS. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said that training and equipping Sunni fighters is a slow process because “we do not want to just give weapons randomly.” When ISIS attacked Mosul last June, many Iraqi soldiers deserted and reportedly left US weapons behind for ISIS fighters to seize.

According to analysis by an anonymous US defense official quoted by The Washington Post, the fact that Iraqi troop numbers were falsely inflated may have contributed to the Iraqi army’s failure in the face of ISIS, as generals on the ground may have planned on having more troops than were actually available. Allegedly, some brigades only had half as many troops as were listed on their rosters, possibly giving generals false confidence that their brigades were strong enough to handle tasks better suited for a larger force.

Inspector General Calls US Effort to Rebuild Afghanistan an “Abysmal Failure”

Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John Sopko is an investigator charged with auditing and reporting to Congress on US government spending in Afghanistan in an effort to prevent waste and fraud. On Tuesday, he discussed his latest findings with reporters and painted a pessimistic picture of how funds have been used to date. According to Military Times, Sopko said that recent efforts to boost the Afghan economy, which have already cost American taxpayers upwards of $700 million, “accomplished nothing.” He also called the overall reconstruction effort, on which the US has already spent $120 billion, an “abysmal failure.”

“This is the most money we have spent on reconstruction of a single country in the history of our republic. Shouldn’t it have been better?” said Sopko.

He blamed the failure on a lack of leadership and described the reconstruction effort as a disorganized free-for-all. Stars and Stripes quoted Sopko as saying, “It seems like no one is responsible for anything in Afghanistan except to get the money out… When you go to Afghanistan and you talk to the people in the US Embassy, I don’t see anybody in charge on developing the economy… There are people who work on it… but there is nobody who is tasked with saying, ‘Your job is to work with the Afghans and make certain they get a viable economy. And if you don’t succeed, you will be held accountable.'”

Examples of the failures include a $34 million US-built base that will likely have to be demolished due to a variety of planning errors including the installation of power outlets that run on the US voltage standard, which is incompatible with power utilities in Afghanistan, and a mishap in which the Department of Defense spent over $400 million building 16 airplanes for the Afghan government only to sell them for scrap to a local contractor in Afghanistan for $32,000 without putting them to their intended use.

Sopko also announced that his office is launching a formal investigation into the DOD’s Task Force for Business and Stability Operations, which is charged with promoting industrial development in Afghanistan and has been accused of mismanagement. He indicated that questions have been raised as to “whether [the task force] should have existed.”

“I have not found anybody who’s lost a job for screwing up — and there have been a lot of screw-ups in Afghanistan,” said Sopko about the overall lack of accountability in the US effort to rebuild Afghanistan.

John Sopko also pointed out the fact that the Afghan government, which receives 90% of its funding from outside sources like the US, does not have the ability to maintain the infrastructure that the US is providing for it. He said, “When you go into a country like Afghanistan, you should to take into account what the government and the economy is faced with, and you should take into account — unless you want to create a client state for X number of years — how do you develop a sustainable economy? And we have not seen that.”

He suggested that US-led efforts to boost Afghanistan’s economy and strengthen its government can only work if taxpayers continue funding it on an ongoing basis. Said Sopko, “they can’t afford the government we’ve given them, and if our intended goal was a government that would keep or kick the terrorists out, we’re going to have to fund it.”