Pentagon Wasted Tons Of Money Sending Afghan Jewelers To Shows In Paris

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Jonah Bennett Contributor
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A government watchdog has revealed that a Pentagon task force in Afghanistan regularly wasted loads of money sending Afghan jewelers on expensive trips abroad to gem shows in Paris and Milan.

The Pentagon’s Task Force for Business and Stability Operations in Afghanistan (TFBSO) was formed in 2010, and over the course of three years the program received a budget of $700 million dollars designed to reinvigorate the local Afghan economy. Since Afghanistan has a gem industry, the task force decided to spend incredible amounts of money sending Afghan jewelers abroad to study in India for months at a time. Others were sent to attend jewelry shows in Paris and Milan. Now, according to SIGAR, it’s time for a reckoning.

“Despite these expenditures, it is not clear to me that the gem industry program produced any positive and lasting economic development or increased employment in Afghanistan,” the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction said.

Special inspector general John F. Sopko wants to know the names of DOD officials who directed and approved the programs initiated by the TFBSO, in part to determine how much officials spent on flights and other expenses. Sopko also requested the policies by which funds are dispersed, as well as whether the program achieved its objectives and generated desired outcomes.

In other words, was it useful to send jewelers to Europe and Asia for an assortment of shows and classes? The program’s forthcoming Economic Impact Assessment must also be promptly handed over to SIGAR for examination.

“The guy getting screwed is the taxpayer,” Sopko told the Washington Post in an interview earlier this year on corruption and mismanagement in Afghanistan. “The guy getting screwed is the honest Afghan who sees the money going to the dishonest Afghan.”

SIGAR’s investigation so far has only been preliminary and the watchdog is setting the stage for a full and complete audit. Aside from wasted money, the letter hints at “allegations of mismanagement concerning seismic testing related to hydrocarbon exploration in Western Afghanistan.”

All of the information must be delivered on Christmas Eve for inspection.

The TFBSO has been clearly told not to destroy any records during the investigation, as the task force is shutting down its operations in March 2015.

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