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Report: Billions spent in Afghanistan with little knowledge of costs

By Charley Keyes, CNN Senior National Security Producer
  • Diplomats, other civilians don't have proper understanding of their expenses, it says
  • Report names State Department, cites risk of money not being used for intended purpose
  • As an example, report says, $3.5 million was transferred with no knowledge of what it was for
  • Number of U.S. government civilians serving in Afghanistan has increased dramatically

Washington (CNN) -- Billions of dollars in U.S. taxpayer funds are being spent to send diplomats and other civilians to Afghanistan without proper understanding of how the money is spent and how expenses may keep going up, a new report concludes.

"No agency has comprehensively assessed the cost of establishing and sustaining the civilian uplift or the mechanisms in place to ensure uplift funds are used appropriately," the report said, pointing out that most of the civilians and the expenses are part of the State Department. "Uplift" is a government term for bringing more civilians into the war zone.

"State had neither established formal mechanisms with other agencies regarding their use of civilian uplift funds nor monitored how agencies spent funds and instead relied on informal communications such as emails and meetings," the report said. "As a result, this increased the risk that funds would not be spent for their intended purpose."

The report was a joint effort by the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction (SIGAR) and the State Department inspector general.

One example highlighted by the report was $3.5 million transferred from State to the Transportation Department. But with no knowledge of what the money was for, the money was never used.

"Without more formal mechanisms in place to transfer funds and to monitor their use, State places uplift funds at the risk of not being used for their intended purpose," the report said.

There has been a dramatic increase in the number of U.S. government civilians serving in Afghanistan, growing from 320 in 2009 to 1,040 this year. The report says it costs $410,000 to $570,000 to deploy one employee to Afghanistan for a year, not counting infrastructure and security expenses.

The report arrives at that roughly half-million-dollar cost by combining base salary, danger pay, overtime and Sunday pay, maintenance pay for families located elsewhere, travel, training, and even a "field life support kit" of satellite phone and protective equipment, as well a variety of other costs.

And as the U.S. military withdraws from Afghanistan, the State Department will have to take on more responsibility for security, at more expense.

"Although officials in State's Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs have started planning to address the costs of supporting and sustaining the civilian presence in Afghanistan, they face a number of planning challenges, such as budget uncertainty and the absence of details on the expected size of the civilian presence in Afghanistan in coming years," the report warns.