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News reports show the Pentagon spent $107.9 billion on contracted services in Afghanistan.
To be sure, not all of the money was spent appropriately, according to a new report from a special inspector general.
The debate over how the United States left Afghanistan, and the chaos it created, will likely last for years. So will the debate over the war itself, and whether nearly 20 years of deployment was worth it.
Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes of Wisconsin, one of at least 10 Democrats hoping to win the seat held by Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, made his position clear in an Aug. 16, 2021 tweet:
"Thousands of American lives lost, plus over 100,000 Afghan civilians and military personnel. Over 100 billion dollars spent on military contracts. And for what?"
The cost in human lives has been well documented. Here are the stark totals as reported that same day by The Associated Press:
American service members killed in Afghanistan through April: 2,448.
U.S. contractors: 3,846.
Afghan national military and police: 66,000.
Other allied service members, including from other NATO member states: 1,144.
Afghan civilians: 47,245.
Taliban and other opposition fighters: 51,191.
Aid workers: 444.
Those casualty totals tragically increased August 26, 2021, when a suicide bomber attacked crowds of Afghans flocking to Kabul’s airport. The attacks killed at least 169 Afghans and 13 U.S. troops, Afghan and U.S. officials said. The death toll could rise as authorities examine the scene.
On August 30, 2021, the last plane carrying U.S. forces left Afghanistan after 20 years of war.
But we’re focused on the second part of Barnes’ tweet, and his claim about money spent on military contracts.
Has more than $100 billion dollars been spent on military contracts?
Let’s take a look.
When asked for back up for the statement, Barnes’ spokesman Christian Slater pointed us to a April 23, 2021 Bloomberg Law report which found that "Since 2002, the Pentagon has spent $107.9 billion on contracted services in Afghanistan, a Bloomberg Government analysis shows."
Contractor support includes lodging, laundry, private security, mechanics, food, transportation, equipment maintenance, and fuel, according to the article.
Texas-based Fluor was the biggest defense contractor in Afghanistan. The Defense Department had spent $3.8 billion for Fluor’s work in Afghanistan since 2015, federal records show, mainly for logistics services, according to an Associated Press report.
A Bloomberg report noted that in April 2021, 16,832 workers were employed by contractors in Afghanistan, with 6,147 of them being U.S. citizens.
That was more than double the remaining 2,500 U.S. troops at the time.
Here is Bloomberg’s list of top Department of Defense contractors for fiscal years 2016-2021.
Fluor Corp.: $3.1 billion
Amentum Parent Holdings: $1.7 billion
Columbia Helicopters: $970 million
PAE: $930 million
Raytheon Technologies: $830 million
Secure Movement Logistics: $680 million
National Fuel: $480 million
Boeing Co.: $400 million
Bravura Information Tech.: $310 million
FedEx Corp.: $310 million
Waste and fraud reported
To be sure, all that money was not spent without controversy -- or even all spent appropriately.
In an August 2021 report on Afghanistan Reconstruction, Special Inspector General John F. Sopko, noted that fraud and financial waste was rampant:
"Because contract work was often performed with little to no oversight, waste and fraud
often went virtually unchecked. In 2012, GAO reported that a number of new, contractor-
built facilities had to be repaired or completely rebuilt because oversight personnel were
unable to adequately measure contractors’ performance, resulting in ‘wasted resources,
low morale, and risks to safety of base and installation personnel where the deficient
guard towers, fire stations, and gates were constructed.’ "
Congress created the inspector general’s office as an independent agency focused on the Afghanistan mission and its reconstruction issues.
Of the approximately $145 billion the U.S. government spent trying to rebuild Afghanistan, about $83 billion went to developing and sustaining its army and police forces, according to the the office.
The $145 billion is in addition to $837 billion the United States spent fighting the war, which began with an invasion in October 2001.
Barnes said "Over 100 billion dollars spent on military contracts."
A Bloomberg Law report found that the Pentagon has spent $107.9 billion on contracted services in Afghanistan. Those contracted services include lodging, laundry, food, transportation, equipment maintenance and fuel.
For a statement that is accurate with nothing significant missing, our rating is True.
Twitter, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, August 16, 2021
Email, Christian Slater, Lt. Gov. Barnes spokesman, August 24, 2021.
CNN "Former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani emerges in the UAE," August 18, 2021.
Independent UK "Afghan president fled with cars and a helicopter ‘full of cash’, claims Russia," August 16, 2021.
The Associated Press "Costs of the Afghanistan war, in lives and dollars," August 16, 2021.
Bloomberg Law "Biden’s Afghan Exit Alarms Contractors Who Outnumber U.S. Troops," April 23, 2021.
US News & World Report "Number of Private Contractors in Afghanistan Drops Precipitously as Biden Pushes Withdrawal Plan," July 21, 2021.
Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction "What we need to learn: Lessons from twenty years of Afghanistan Reconstruction," August 2021
House of Representatives, Committee on Oversight and Reform, August 24, 2021.
Military Times "Contractors who powered US war in Afghanistan stuck in Dubai," August 9, 2021
The Associated Press "US forces keep up Kabul airlift under threat of more attacks," August 27, 2021.
USA Today, "Afghanistan latest: US finishes withdrawal; Biden to address nation," August 30, 2021.
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