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US soldiers sold military fuel to Afghans, says monitoring group

US soldiers sold military fuel to Afghans, says monitoring group

WASHINGTON: US courts have convicted several soldiers in Afgh­an­istan for their part in selling $15 million worth of military fuel to Afghans, according to a report prepared by the Center for Public Integrity, a monitoring group.

The report uncovered $52m worth of fraud through theft, bribery and other petty crimes, but says “it’s only the tip of the iceberg”.

“The magnitude of additional losses from fraud, waste, and abuse by contractors, civilians, and allied foreign troops in Afghanistan has never been tallied. Officials probing such crimes say the total is in the billions of dollars,” the report adds.

John F. Sopko, US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan, told a US media outlet that his agency had probably uncovered less than half of the fraud committed by members of the military in Afghanistan.

The Center for Public Integrity, a US nonprofit monitoring group, which compiled two recent reports on corruption in Afghanistan, says that the United States also lost billions of dollars in financing Afghan military and police forces. The report claims that US assistance to Afghan soldiers and police is still based on ragged data.

Last month, Defence Secretary Ashton Carter announced that the Pentagon was willing to finance an Afghan security force through 2017 at its existing level of 352,000 personnel — a force more than 50 per cent bigger than the Nato alliance intended to support.

The Center for Public Integrity based these reports on court documents the Pentagon filed in US courts in corruption cases. Since 2005, the courts have convicted at least 115 enlisted personnel and military officers convicted of committing theft, bribery, and contract-rigging crimes valued at $52 million during their deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The report claims that in Afghanistan, US “troops were selling the military’s fuel to Afghan locals on the side, and pocketing the proceeds.”

Many of these crimes grew out of shortcomings in the military’s management: a heavy dependence on cash transactions, a hasty award process for high-value contracts and loose oversight.

The report notes that Afghanistan’s “culture of corruption” also “proved seductive” to the American troops deployed there.

Last week, Mr Spoko told a House sub-committee that as of March 31 this year, Congress has appropriated $60.7 billion to equip, train, and sustain the ANSF, which consists of the Afghan National Army (ANA) and the Afghan National Police (ANP). Of this, at least $3.8 billion has been allocated to fund ANSF salaries.

Published in Dawn, May 8th, 2015

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