Pentagon wasted millions of dollars buying the Afghanistan army a woodland camouflage uniform that was apparently chosen on a whim and may have made soldiers easier to spot, a US government watchdog said today. The office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) said the Pentagon may have spent as much as USD 28 million more than necessary when it decided in 2007 to purchase the dark-green camouflage uniforms. Pentagon officials at the time “ran across” the website of a private company that owned a proprietary camo design and showed these to Afghanistan’s then defense minister, Abdul Rahim Wardak.
He “liked what he saw. He liked the woodland, urban and temperate patterns,” the SIGAR report states, citing Pentagon officials. After further consultation with the Afghan defense ministry, officials decided to adopt the camouflage pattern containing a “forest” color scheme for army uniforms, “despite the fact that forests cover only 2.1 percent of Afghanistan’s total land area.” That decision resulted in the purchase of 1,364,602 such uniforms and 88,010 extra pairs of pants between November 2008 and January this year.
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The highly critical SIGAR report also says officials ordered the uniforms without conducting any formal testing or evaluation. “As a result, neither (the US Department of Defense) nor the Afghan government knows whether the ANA (Afghan National Army) uniform is appropriate to the Afghan environment, or whether it actually hinders their operations by providing a more clearly visible target to the enemy,” SIGAR said. Special Inspector John Sopko, who periodically releases reports like this documenting US government waste and missed opportunities in Afghanistan, told USA Today the saga was “stupid.”
“My concern is what if the minister of defense liked purple, or liked pink?” Sopko told the newspaper. “Are we going to buy pink uniforms for soldiers and not ask questions? That’s insane. This is just simply stupid on its face. We wasted USD 28 million of taxpayers’ money in the name of fashion, because the defense minister thought that that pattern was pretty.”