The same office in the Defense Department that spent $43 million to build a single gas station in Afghanistan, also spent nearly $150 million of taxpayer money on luxurious private villas with private security in Afghanistan.
The villas were built between 2010 and 2014 and were addressed this week by John Sopko, the head of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR).
Sopko sent a letter to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, in which he questioned why the office tasked with rebuilding the economies in Iraq and Afghanistan spent about one fifth of its budget on external residences in Kabul for five to 10 of its employees.
Sopko says in the letter that had employees who are part of the Task Force for Business and Stability Operations (TFBSO), instead lived on U.S. military bases, “it appears the taxpayers would have saved tens of millions of dollars.”
The letter acknowledges that the task force’s personnel wanted to maintain their “freedom of movement,” but it was “unclear what benefits the U.S. received as a result of TFBSO’s decision to rent private housing and hire private security contractors.”
SIGAR is involved in a massive investigation which claims that the task force misused much of its $800 million budget before disbanding in March 2015.
According to Sopko’s letter, rooming provided by military contractor Triple Canopy included queen-size beds, mini-refrigerators and flat screen TVs with DVD players. Some personnel were granted accommodations in “investor villas” with “upgraded furniture” and “western-style hotel accommodations.”
Contractors at the villas also demanded at least two entrée choices and three side order options, all deemed “at least 3 stars.”
Sopko speculated that the task force’s decision to allow personnel to live off of U.S. military bases may have come from Paul Brinkley, former Deputy Undersecretary for Defense and the task force’s first director.
Brinkley is no longer working for the U.S. government and he has not cooperated in SIGAR’s investigation, despite requests.
Sopko quotes Brinkley as previously saying, “wherever possible, we avoided depending on the military.”