Billions missing in Afghan quagmire as US states go broke!
But first, a disturbing new report now revealing — get this — billions and billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars missing in Afghanistan — billions of …dollars.
Our Pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence has got the details for us.
Chris, at a time of economic difficulty and they’re looking to save money, all of a sudden billions are missing in Afghanistan? What’s going on?
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, basically, this federal audit shows that about 10 years in, the U.S. still only has limited visibility of what happens to billions of dollars once we send it to Afghanistan. That makes it not only vulnerable to fraud, but in some cases even being diverted to insurgents who are fighting American troops.
How much money are we talking about? Well, the U.S. has spent about $70 billion, sending it to reconstruction and security projects in Afghanistan. And what the audit finds is that as much as $10 million may be leaving Afghanistan, smuggled out of Afghanistan every single day.
Why is that? Because when Afghan government officials leave the country, no one is checking how much money they have with them. And the audit shows that Afghan government officials are refusing to put their money through these electronic currency counters.
Could the U.S. check it? Hard to do when U.S. officials are denied access to that part of the airport where the VIP’s are getting screened. And President Hamid Karzai has now banned U.S. Treasury officials from working with the Afghan central bank.
Look, the Obama administration has now requested another $17 billion for Afghanistan reconstruction next year. But even some Democrats are now wondering, are we throwing good money after bad.
We spoke with Senator Claire McCaskill who has been tracking government waste and these contracting issues for several years.
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SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI: We had palates of cash walk away in Iraq, and I was hopeful after doing a lot of oversights in Iraq that we had learned a lot of lessons from that. This report says all those lessons have not been learned, because clearly we have to be able to track the currency as it flows to contractors as it flows to subcontractors.
And the lack of cooperation in the Afghanistan banking system is not helping us with our oversight responsibility. If they’re not willing to allow us to look over their shoulder as this money flows into the Afghan economy, then we ought to say to them, maybe it’s time we don’t let that money flow.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LAWRENCE: One of the problems is they use what’s called hawalas (ph), these are sort of informal financial institutions that operate sort of outside the law. They’re not like official banks.
One of the — when you look at the audit, they found one case in which U.S. contractor, you know, tried to send out about $3 billion, but it got tied up with his hawala who refused to disburse the money, and there’s no way to get that back — Wolf.
BLITZER: And this latest bombshell coming from the U.S. government, the special inspector general’s report, and it’s a shocking report. It’s going to put added pressure on the Obama administration to start getting out of Afghanistan even more quickly, especially since there’s no evidence the Afghan government is doing what it needs to do to prevent these millions and millions of dollars getting out every day. Some of that money, presumably, as you point out, going to terrorists and extremists who want to kill Americans. Shocking report.
LAWRENCE: Exactly, Wolf. I mean, just one more thing. I mean, when you look at it, there’s an agency that tracks this. And they even said 21 leads to Afghan government officials on potential crimes. Do you want to know how many of those leads the Afghan attorney general’s office followed up on? Four.
BLITZER: Yes. It’s a shocking, shocking development. All right. Thanks very much. Chris Lawrence at the Pentagon.