Nightly News   |  July 13, 2013

Watchdog warns about waste in Afghanistan

As the U.S. prepares to leave Afghanistan, the Pentagon is  trying to strengthen the Afghan military by providing new aircraft. But a government watchdog is warning that this may prove to be a huge waste of taxpayer money. NBC’s Lisa Myers reports.

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>>> our series the fleecing of america tracking waste, fraud and abuse in washington. as the u.s. prepares to leave afghanistan the pentagon is trying to strengthen the afghan military by providing new aircraft. but a government watchdog is warning that this like some other projects in afghanistan may prove to be a huge waste of taxpayer money. we get our report from our senior investigative correspondent lisa myers .

>> reporter: with most american troops about to leave afghanistan , the u.s. is trying to strengthen afghan special fors to deal with the taliban and the drug trade . so the pentagon is buying them almost a billion dollars worth of new airplanes and new russian helicopters. but there's a problem. the u.s. government watchdog warns that the afghans cannot operate and maintain the helicopters they already have. and certainly not the new ones.

>> this, unfortunately, is what we see time and again.

>> reporter: in the last year special inspector general has issued 40 reports on waste in afghanistan . millions for irrigation pumps that weren't needed. expensive tractors too wide for afghan planting methods. thousand of destroyed or stolen vehicles. new $34 million state-of-the-art headquarters which the u.s. military doesn't want and probably will be torn down. but all that is small potatoes compared to taxpayer craft the pentagon is buying. in spite of the i.g.'s warnings that the afghans have less than 25% of the personnel needed to fly and service them and recruiting is hindered by ill litter gentlemancy and wide tie to the taliban or criminal elements.

>> reporter: he wants to cancel the contracts. at stake $770 mill. the pentagon acknowledges this is not an easy road ahead but insist the aircraft are needed now to develop a more capable afghan force. so far the u.s. has spent a staggering $90 billion reconstructing afghanistan . he fears these new aircraft will end up like billion of dollars of other equipment and construction. rusting and unused.

>> we're pretty good at buying things, at buying toys. our problem is planning for it, maintaining it and making certain the afghans can use it.

>> reporter: even contractors predict it will be ten years before the afghans can maintain the aircraft themselves. until then american taxpayers will pick up the tab. another $100 million a year. lisa myers , nbc news, washington.