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* Believe it or not, for instance, U.S. commanders in our war zones have more than one billion congressionally mandated dollars a year at their disposal to spend on making “friends with local citizens and help[ing] struggling economies.” It’s all socked away in the Commander’s Emergency Response Program. Think of it as a local community-bribery account which, best of all, seems not to require the slightest accountability to Congress for where or how the money is spent. |
* Believe it or not (small change department), the Pentagon is planning to spend an initial $50 million from a “$350 million Pentagon program designed to improve the counterterrorism operations of U.S. allies” on Croatia, Georgia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, all of whom, in the latest version of the Coalition of the Billing, just happen to have small numbers of troops deployed in Afghanistan. The backdrop for this is Canada’s decision to withdraw its combat forces from Afghanistan in 2011 and a fear in Washington that the larger European allies may threaten to bail as well. Think of that $50 million as a down payment on a state bribery program -- and the Pentagon is reportedly hoping to pry more money loose from Congress to pay off the smaller “allies” in a bigger way in the future.
* Believe it or not, the Defense Logistics Agency shipped 1.1 million hamburger patties to Afghanistan in the month of March 2010 (nearly doubling the March 2009 figure). Almost any number you might care to consider related to the Afghan War is similarly on the rise. By the fall, the number of American troops there will have nearly tripled since President Obama took office; American deaths in Afghanistan have doubled in the first months of 2010, while the number of wounded has tripled; insurgent roadside bomb (IED) attacks more than doubled in 2009 and are still rising; U.S. drone strikes almost doubled in 2009 and are on track to triple this year; and fuel deliveries to Afghanistan have nearly doubled, rising from 15 million gallons a month in March 2009 to 27 million this March. (Keep in mind that, by the time a gallon of gas has made it to U.S. troops in the field, its cost is estimated at up to $100.)
* Believe it or not, according to a recent report by the Pentagon inspector general, private contractor KBR, holding a $38 billion contract to provide the U.S. military with “a range of logistic services,” has cost Washington $21 million in “waste” on truck maintenance alone by billing for 12 hours of work when, on average, its employees were actually putting in 1.3 hours.
* Believe it or not, the State Department has paid another private contractor, Triple Canopy, $438 million since mid-2005 simply to guard the massive, 104-acre U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, the largest on the planet. That’s more than half the price tag to build the embassy, the running of which is expected to cost an estimated $1.8 billion dollars in 2010. Triple Canopy now has 1,800 employees dedicated to embassy protection in the Iraqi capital, mainly Ugandan and Peruvian security guards. At $736 million to build, the embassy itself is a numbers wonder (and has only recently had its sizeable playing field astroturfed – “the first artificial turf sports field in Iraq” -- also assumedly at taxpayer expense). Fans of Ripley-esque diplomatic gigantism should have no fears about the future either: the U.S. is now planning to build another “mother ship” of similar size and cost in Islamabad, Pakistan.
* Believe it or not, according to Nick Turse of TomDispatch.com, nearly 400 bases for U.S. troops, CIA operatives, special operations forces, NATO allies, and civilian contractors have already been constructed in Afghanistan, topping the base-building figures for Iraq by about 100 in a situation in which almost every bit of material has to be transported into the country. The base-building spree has yet to end.
* Believe it or not, according to the Washington Post, the Defense Department has awarded a contract worth up to $360 million to the son of an Afghan cabinet minister to transport U.S. military supplies through some of the most dangerous parts of Afghanistan -- and his company has no trucks. (He hires subcontractors who evidently pay off the Taliban as part of a large-scale protection racket that allows the supplies through unharmed.) This contract is, in turn, part of a $2.1 billion Host Nation Trucking contract whose recipients may be deeply involved in extortion and smuggling rackets, and over which the Pentagon reportedly exercises little oversight.