The military affairs blog War is Boring got a major scoop last week with an insider’s account of an incident that stands out as a shining example of the gross waste and mismanagement in the United States’ 15-year, $115 billion (and growing) Afghanistan reconstruction effort.
A former employee of the Pentagon’s controversial Task Force for Business and Stability Operations provided War is Boring reporter Matthew Gault with stories and photographs of the $150 million luxury villas the task force used for accommodations in Afghanistan from 2009 to 2014. As we reported last year, the task force blew 20 percent of its budget to rent these posh digs and stock them with a jaw-dropping array of creature comforts. The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) estimated the task force could have saved taxpayers tens of millions of dollars by staying at existing U.S. military or diplomatic facilities.
The anonymous ex-employee compared the villas to a five-star hotel. His photos depict immaculately tended grounds and opulent interiors and furnishings.
Gault’s source said the fancy digs were meant to impress international business representatives invited to Afghanistan to scout out investment opportunities. What kind of entrepreneur did the Pentagon send over to help revive Afghanistan’s economy? According to the source, they were mostly recent college graduates in their 20s who acted like they were still in college.
“Alcohol was rampant,” the source said. The visitors had no military background and no idea of the danger. Taxpayers paid for private guards to escort task force staff and their guests for nights on the town. Gault reports that the source told him stories about “young employees binge-drinking until they vomited in front of crowds of people.” When the Pentagon tried to move personnel into cheaper accommodations at a nearby Italian military base, the source said his colleagues “pushed back” and remained in the villas.
The luxury villas, as well as several other task force projects, have been garnering national attention over the past year. The task force, which shut down in early 2015, is the subject of ongoing investigations by SIGAR and Congress.