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The Telegraph/UK

US Squandered £21 Billion on Private Contractors in Afghanistan and Iraq

Ben Famer in Kabul

Waste, mismanagement and poorly conceived projects mean the United States could have lost more than 15 per cent of the total given out in contracts and grants.

More could yet be lost as US troops pull out of Afghanistan, with the withdrawal risking "massive new wastes of money" because the Afghan government cannot finish costly projects already begun.

The unfinished report has taken three years to compile and offers the most detailed account yet of the magnitude of the contractor workforce which has mushroomed around the conflicts.

America will have spent £128 million on private contracts and grants by the end of September.

The coalition allies rely on hired staff for everything from feeding troops and cleaning latrines to guarding convoys, manning surveillance equipment and building schools and wells.

Around 209,000 contractors were on the US payroll at one time - 60,000 more than the combined number of US troops now in the two countries.

The Commission on Wartime Contracting study cites wasteful projects such as an agricultural aid project spending £625,000 per day paying Afghan farmers to work in their own fields.

A sub-contractor in eastern Afghanistan spent a fifth of its funds on one project paying protection money to local insurgents to avoid being attacked.

A new Afghan military academy would cost £25 million to maintain, far more than Kabul regime's budget could afford.

The way contractors are used must be overhauled immediately to avoid repeating the waste in future wars or crises, the draft said according to the Wall Street Journal.

"Delay and inactivity are not good options, for there will be a next contingency, whether the crisis takes the form of overseas hostilities or response to a declared national emergency like a mass-casualty terror attack or natural disaster," the draft said.

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