Millions in oil lost by Afghan army may stall transition of power
WASHINGTON - A special inspector for reconstruction in Afghanistan said Thursday that he doubts the effectiveness of Afghan army leadership after hundreds of millions of dollars of oil shipments to the country disappeared.
Special Inspector John F. Sopko told a House committee that neither the Afghan forces nor the United States and NATO coalition delivering the oil have been following procedures meant for a successful transition of power.
“The problem is we should be leading by example, and the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan doesn’t follow its own rules,” Sopko said at a hearing before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. “How can we assume that the Afghans can do it if CSTC-A doesn’t even do it?”
Sopko’s remarks reflect a report from his office that found no government agency has complete records about fuel purchased for the Afghanistan National Army.
According to the report, records for the $475 million of lost oil were destroyed when CSTC-A shredded documents from 2007 to 2011, violating Department of Defense and Department of the Army policy.
The report also shows the ANA doesn’t provide data about how much oil it consumes or a reliable inventory of the number of vehicles and generators that require fuel. The audit revealed fuel requests for trailers without engines and other instances of waste.
“It’s a case of no good deed goes unpunished,” Rep Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., said. We’re trying to help the Afghan people, meanwhile, there are agents within their government that are robbing us blind.”
Sopko said the mismanagement might stop a new system set to start in January, in which cash would be given to the ANA to buy fuel.
Members of the subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense, and Foreign Operations agreed that switching to the direct contribution system would mean giving more money with less accountability.
“To do so would be to double down on a losing bet,” Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, subcommittee chair, said. “If the United States government can’t track and verify these expenditures, then can we honestly expect the Afghan government to do better?”
Lynch advocated for withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2013, rather than President Barack Obama’s projected pullout date of before the end of 2014.
“This ball is in their court” Lynch said. “They’ve got to step it up, and I don’t see them stepping up. And I don’t think that staying one more year is going to change their level of commitment.”
Sopko said his office submitted the names of 242 companies and individuals that should be barred from shipping oil to the Afghan military based on a record of fraud or waste. He cited affidavits from U.S. Army officers saying that some delivery documents had forged signatures on them and that the bases never received the oil.
However, the Afghan army hasn’t taken any action on Sopko’s do-not-hire list. Sopko said 42 of the names on his list have terrorist ties, according to a list published by the Department of Commerce. An additional eight names are listed in the Defense Authorization Act as having terrorist ties.
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