The Pentagon is under fire for spending $150 million of taxpayer money on providing U.S. government staff in Kabul, Afghanistan with fancy villas, which came complete with flat screen TV’s, private security, and three course meals for “special events”.
U.S. defense secretary, Ash Carter, is being asked to explain why the Task Force for Business and Stability Operations (TFBSO) spent a fifth of its budget on staff residences when they could have been accommodated at American military or diplomatic bases.
The demand is coming from the head of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (Sigar), John Sopko.
In a letter to Carter, Spoko says, “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 $150m, amounting to nearly 20% of its budget, on private housing and private security guards for its US government employees in Afghanistan, rather than live on US military bases.”
He goes on to ask about the private housing and its high-end luxury. “For example, Triple Canopy provided TFBSO personnel with queen size beds in certain rooms, a flat screen TV in each room that was 27 inches or larger, a DVD player in each room, a mini refrigerator in each room, and an ‘investor villa’ that had ‘upgraded furniture’ and ‘western-style hotel accommodations’. In terms of food, Triple Canopy was required to provide service that was ‘at least three stars’, with each meal containing at least two entrée choices and three side order choices, as well as three course meals for ‘special events’.”
As well as each of the houses having a private security service, a private contractor supplied on-site laundry services, on-site meals with drinks and light snacks available 24/7, housekeeping, grounds maintenance, and cultural advisors and translators.
Sopko calculated that if the Government employees had been housed at Department of Defense facilities in Afghanistan, where housing, security and food service are routinely provided, U.S. taxpayers would have “saved tens of millions of dollars”.
Department of Defense spokesman, Army Lieutenant Colonel Joe Sowers confirmed the letter had been received and says the Department “will respond”.