New Afghan army uniform cost $28 million more than needed, says watchdog

In a scathing report, John Sopko said that officials bought "forest" pattern uniforms, despite the country's landscape being only 2.1% wooded.

'My concern is what if the minister of defense liked purple, or liked pink?' John Sopko, the special inspector general, told USA TODAY in an interview.

'As a result, neither DOD nor the Afghan government knows whether the ANA uniform is appropriate to the Afghan environment, or whether it actually hinders their operations by providing a more clearly visible target to the enemy.

The questionable uniform features a woodland camouflage pattern that "may be inappropriate", given that just two percent of the nation is forested, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction said in a 17-page report.

Abdul Rahim Wardak, a former defense minister for Kabul, "ran across" a colorful camouflage pattern that he liked while browsing the internet in 2007, and "liked what he saw", according to Business Insider.

'Furthermore, DOD's lack of due diligence and its decision to purchase ANA uniforms using a proprietary camouflage pattern appear to have resulted in unit costs that are significantly higher than those for similar non-proprietary camouflaged uniforms, potentially costing the US taxpayers an additional $26.65 million-$28.23 million since 2008'.

"He liked the woodland, urban, and temperate patterns", according to the SIGAR report - this despite Afghanistan being about 95 percent desert.

Besides the higher cost, the forest patterns do not provide much camouflage for the Afghan National Police.

- According to a technical paper prepared for the U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Army, the spatial characteristics and color palette of a camouflage pattern should be tailored to the specific environment.

Sopko has always been critical of the Pentagon for recklessly spending tens of millions of dollars as part of the $66 billion Congress has earmarked to train, equip and house Afghan security forces, said USA Today, which first reported on the study.

Signing the contract for a proprietary pattern, as opposed to a non-proprietary patten, increased costs to the us government by 40 percent to 43 percent, SIGAR found. Instead, the Defense Department gave up control of the purchase and spent an extra $28 million on the wrong pattern just because someone in Afghanistan liked it.

The new uniforms also included expensive details like replacing buttons with zippers.

During a hearing about the Pentagon budget earlier in June, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said, "We are not winning in Afghanistan right now".

"Given our historical and pledged commitments to the ANA, SIGAR estimates that changing the ANA uniform could save USA taxpayers between $68.61 million - $72.21 million over the next 10 years", the report concludes. However, a senior official with the CSTC-A responded that the Afghan army "has already chosen the pattern they want". The watchdog called on the Pentagon to conduct a cost-benefit analysis to figure out a more effective, and cheaper, alternative.

  • Leroy Wright