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Pentagon Crew Lived Large in $150 Million Afghan Villas

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Money wasted in AfghanistanA Pentagon task force established in 2006 to help lure private businesses first to Iraq and then Afghanistan allegedly blew as much as $150 million on lavish villas in Afghanistan for a few lucky members of its staff—instead of lodging them cheaply, or for free, at the U.S. embassy or any one of numerous large American military bases in the war-torn country.

The alleged waste by the Task Force for Business and Stability Operations, first described in a five-page Nov. 25 letter to U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter from John Sopko, from the military’s special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, or SIGAR, should come as no surprise. TFBSO, as it’s known inside the Pentagon, has long attracted criticism for apparently wasteful spending and other abuses.

As Sopko notes in his letter to Carter, TFBSO—which burned through nearly $1 billion between its arrival in Afghanistan in 2009 and its disbandment in March—once dropped $43 million on a gas station in Afghanistan that Sopko claimed should have cost $500,000. TFBSO also pumped $282 million into Afghanistan’s minerals and petroleum industry without devising a long-term plan for the investment, Sopko noted.

The villas were only the most recent blemishes on the business task force’s record. “Based on allegations we have received from former TFBSO employees and others, today I am writing to request information concerning TFBSO’s decision to spend nearly $150 million, amounting to nearly 20 percent of its budget, on private housing and private security guards for its U.S. government employees in Afghanistan, rather than live on U.S. military bases,” Sopko wrote to Carter.

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