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A C-27A transport aircraft, which was given by the U.S. military, is seen at an airbase in Kabul November 15, 2009. (Omar Sobhani/Reuters)

Afghan Money Pit

Fleet of Planes from $486 Million Program for Afghan Security Forces Scheduled to Be Destroyed

After being given to the Afghan military as part of a $500 million U.S.-funded program, 16 planes were deemed unusable and parked on a runway. Now they’re scheduled to be destroyed.

While the U.S. military effort in Afghanistan winds down the price tag for waste in the funding for the Afghan Security Forces continues to rise.

The most recent evidence of mismanagement emerged during Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John Sopko’s recent visit when he found 16 C27A aircrafts waiting to be destroyed at the Kabul International Airport.

Part of a 486 million dollar U.S. program to provide refurbished aircrafts for Afghan Security Forces, these planes are the latest in a long line of U.S.-funded equipment that never made it into the hands of Afghan forces before landing in line for disposal.

“I saw these planes sitting dormant on the airfield and knew something was wrong and answers were needed,” Sopko said in a statement.

This nearly half billion dollar program only adds to the billions of dollars the U.S. military has left unaccounted for in allocating funds for aid, equipment and training for local Afghan forces that are slated to take over the security effort as U.S. soldiers draw out of Afghanistan at the end of the year.

In light of the discovery of these abandoned aircrafts, SIGAR recently announced (PDF) its intention to investigation the C27A aircraft program, which was terminated in early 2012.

The U.S. Air Force initially contracted Italian company Finmeccanica to refurbish C27A transport planes for Afghan forces’ use in 2008. The transports were originally intended to make up about 15 percent of a 105-aircraft Afghan Air Force that would carry top Afghan civilian officials and allow combat troops conduct medical evacuations.

However, according to Lieutenant General Charles Davis, a military acquisition official, the Italian made-planes proved inadequate for the hot and dusty environment in Afghanistan.

“Just about everything you can think of was wrong for it other than the airplane was built for the size of cargo and mission they needed,” Davis said “Other than that, it didn’t really meet any of the requirements.”

The air force also had difficulty finding capable pilots for the transports planes and had issues with “contractor performance,” Davis said.

The DOD did not renew its contract with Finmeccanica in March 2012, ending the program.

The DOD was the first to pinpoint the inefficiencies of the program. An audit of the cost and availability of spare parts for the C27A program conducted by the Department of Defense Inspector General found that “G222 [Project Management Office] officials did not effectively manage the G222 program,” failing to account for the long-term sustainable costs of the program, according to a January report.

Meanwhile, the SIGAR investigation takes a broader scope than the CSTC-A/NTM-A audit. The Inspector General plans to determine the total amount of money spent to procure, operate, sustain, and dispose of the G222s, investigate future plans for the G222s, and evaluate any controls that have been put in place since the CSTC-A audit to prevent further mismanagement of funds in military spending in Afghanistan.

In a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who has been in Afghanistan negotiating an agreement to keep a U.S. military contingent in the country past 2014, the Inspector General requested an entrance conference for the investigation within the next two weeks.

SIGAR is also conducting an ongoing investigation into the Afghan Air Force’s ability to use equipment provided by the U.S. military. This audit began in October 2013 and is expected to conclude in January 2014.

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