A Billion Bucks in Bullets

U.S. government has given Afghan National Army more than $1 billion in ammo

Afghan National Army / AP
June 10, 2013

The U.S. government has given the embattled Afghan National Army (ANA) more than $1 billion in taxpayer-funded ammunition, according to the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction’s (SIGAR) latest oversight report.

This is in addition to $288 million that has been spent on ammunition for the troubled Afghan National Police (ANP), which has been cited by SIGAR for its widespread corruption.

The United States has spent more than $54 billion in total to arm, train, and sustain Afghanistan’s security forces, which continue to underperform and suffer low enlistment rates, according to SIGAR’s quarterly progress reports.

It is unclear just how much ammunition the $1.03 billion translates to and just how much of this ammo has been used.

In addition to the billion-dollar ammo purchase, the United States has spent more than $878 million on weapons for the ANA and another $5.6 billion on military vehicles.

However, a large amount of this money has been wasted on vehicles that either do not work or that have been destroyed beyond repair, according to SIGAR.

The issue of arming Afghan security forces continues to cause controversy, as Afghan security personnel engage in so-called "insider attacks" on the remaining U.S. forces in the country.

A man wearing an ANA uniform murdered three Americans over the weekend, according to NBC News.

The purported ANA soldier "turned his weapon against" U.S. forces, killing two soldiers and a civilian, the International Security Assistance Force was quoted as saying in a statement.

"Insider attacks accounted for one in every five combat deaths suffered by NATO-led forces in Afghanistan and 16 percent of all American combat casualties according to 2012 data," NBC said in its report.

There were 12 such attacks in 2011 and 34 in the first half of 2012, according to the New America Foundation.

The final accounting of U.S. ammo purchases in Afghanistan also comes as lawmakers on Capitol Hill hotly debate domestic ammunitions purchases at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and other related agencies.

DHS has said that it reserves the right to purchase nearly a billion round of ammunition, prompting accusation from lawmakers that it is hoarding bullets and wasting money.

House lawmakers voted last week to block DHS ammo purchases until it provides greater transparency on how the bullets are used.

Meanwhile, the ANA continues to receive shipments of large-scale military equipment from the United States.

The Afghan Air Force’s inventory now consists of 113 aircraft, including attack helicopters and transport planes, according to SIGAR’s latest report. At least 32 various helicopters have yet to be delivered.

The Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) continuously failed to hit recruiting numbers despite the U.S.-funded equipment and weapons.

"We are very concerned because the ANSF were supposed to achieve an end-strength of 352 thousand troops by last October," SIGAR lead inspector John Sopko said in May.

"The ANSF has fallen short of its staffing goals by 20,000 troops," Sopko said. "The number of troops ready for duty is even lower when you consider AWOL employees, desertions, and ghost employees."

Sopko also said the White House has tried to silence him due to his oversight work, which has detailed massive waste and abuse of U.S. taxpayer dollars in Afghanistan.

"Over the last 10 months, I have been criticized by some bureaucrats for not pre-clearing my press releases with them, for not letting them edit the titles of my audits, for talking too much to Congress, for talking too much to the press, and, basically, for not being a 'team player' and undermining 'our country’s mission in Afghanistan,'" Sopko said in his speech.

The top commander of U.S. Special Operations forces has also expressed frustration over his inability to speak honestly about the harm massive defense cuts are causing to the military.