The Taliban harbored al-Qaeda before and after 9/11 so naturally, the US had to oust Mullah Omar and company on the way to chasing Osama bin Laden through the mountains whilst laying waste to whatever civilization existed prior to the American invasion.
But the $133.1 billion spent on the war was well worth it. Bin Laden was captured in a matter of months, the Taliban was driven into relative obscurity, a stable government was elected by the people for the people in Kabul, and today, Afghanistan stands as a democratic oasis in an otherwise strife-ridden wasteland.
Actually it took a decade to find Bin Laden, the country is still mired in violence, Mullah Omar finally died with his one eye but it wasn’t part of some dramatic US raid, the Taliban is resurgent and now controls more territory than it has since before 9/11, and in October, Obama had to backtrack on his pledge to pull American troops out of the country.
According to Afghan government sources there was a “secret” meeting in Doha in February between the Taliban and officials from Kabul where, according to the government, “they [the Taliban] wouldn’t simply reject that they’re going to meet [us] face to face [for the talks in March].” If that doesn’t sound promising to you, you’re a pragmatist and should be praised for it.
So that of course means more taxpayer dollars will continue to be plowed into this misadventure and before you know it, American boots will have been on Afghan ground for longer than some of the soldiers fighting there will have been alive.
For those who enjoy seeing how their tax dollars are wasted on Washington’s perpetually wrong-footed Mid-East foreign policy, NBC has the following hilarious (and remarkably candid, considering the source) tribute to utter military frivolity.
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NBC News spoke to SIGAR’s Special Inspector General John F. Sopko about 12 of the most bizarre and baffling cases highlighted by his team’s investigations.
1. $486 million for ‘deathtrap’ aircraft that were later sold for $32,000
“These planes were the wrong planes for Afghanistan,” Sopko told NBC News. “The U.S. had difficulty getting the Afghans to fly them, and our pilots called them deathtraps. One pilot said parts started falling off while he was coming into land.” Sopko called the planes “one of the biggest single programs in Afghanistan that was a total failure.”
2. $335 million on a power plant that used just 1 percent of its capacity
The “modern” diesel plant exported just 8,846 megawatt hours of power between February 2014 and April 2015, SIGAR said in a letter to USAID last August. This output was less than 1 percent of the plant’s capacity and provided just 0.35 percent of power to Kabul, a city of 4.6 million people.
3. Almost $500,000 on buildings that ‘melted’ in the rain
U.S. officials directed and oversaw the construction of an Afghan police training facility in 2012 that was so poorly built that its walls actually fell apart in the rain. The $456,669 dry-fire range in Wardak province was “not only an embarrassment, but, more significantly, a waste of U.S. taxpayers’ money,” SIGAR’s report said in January 2015.
4. $34.4 million on a soybean program for a country that doesn’t eat soybeans
“They didn’t grow them, they didn’t eat them, there was no market for them, and yet we thought it was a good idea,” Sopko told NBC News.
5. One general’s explanation why 1,600 fire-prone buildings weren’t a problem
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built some 2,000 buildings to be used as barracks, medical clinics and fire stations by the Afghan National Army as part of a $1.57-billion program. When two fires in October and December 2012 revealed that around 80 percent of these structures did not meet international building regulations for fire safety, Sopko said he was “troubled” by the “arrogant” response from a senior USACE chief.
6. A $600,000 hospital where infants were washed in dirty river water
“Because there was no clean water, staff at the hospital were washing newborns with untreated river water,” SIGAR’s report said in January 2014. It added that the “poorly constructed” building was also at increased “risk of structural collapse during an earthquake.”
7. $36 million on a military facility that several generals didn’t want
The so-called “64K” command-and-control facility at Afghanistan’s Camp Leatherneck cost $36 million and was “a total waste of U.S. taxpayer funds,” SIGAR’s report said in May 2015.
8. $39.6 million that created an awkward conversation for the U.S. ambassador
A now-defunct Pentagon task force spent almost $40 million on Afghanistan’s oil, mining and gas industry — but no one remembered to tell America’s diplomats in Kabul, according to SIGAR, citing a senior official at the U.S. embassy in the city.
In fact, the first the U.S. ambassador knew about the multi-billion-dollar spend was when Afghan government officials thanked him for his country’s support, SIGAR said.
9. $3 million for the purchase — and then mystery cancellation — of eight boats
SIGAR said the U.S. military has been unable to provide records answering “the most basic questions” surrounding the mystery purchase and cancellation of eight patrol boats for landlocked Afghanistan.
10. $7.8 billion fighting drugs — while Afghans grow more opium than ever
Despite the U.S. plowing some $7.8 billion into stopping Afghanistan’s drug trade,” Afghan farmers are growing more opium than ever before,” SIGAR reported in December 2014.
11. $7.8 million on a nearly-empty business park
After the military withdrew in mid-2014, the investigators were told that at least four Afghan businesses had moved into the industrial park. However, SIGAR said that it could not complete a thorough inspection because USAID’s contract files were “missing important documentation.”
12. $81.9 million on incinerators that either weren’t used or harmed troops
The DOD spent nearly $82 million on nine incineration facilities in Afghanistan — yet four of them never fired their furnaces, SIGAR said in February 2015. These four dormant facilities had eight incinerators between them and the wastage cost $20.1 million.
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The good news is, now that Obama is set to keep all 9,800 troops that are currently in the country deployed through this year and 5,500 troops through 2017, they’ll be plenty more opportunities to waste money.
Maybe Kabul will mercifully pass the baton to the Russians who – if Syria is any indication – seem to have learned something from their experience fighting the Mujahideen in the 80s.