Over the 20-year period of America’s invasion and intervention in Afghanistan, the U.S. Department of Defense paid various companies about $108 billion in contracts for work performed in the country, according to the latest research from the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University.
“This paper, which is the first to compile this information, shows that not only did a handful of companies earn billions of dollars from the U.S. government during the war in Afghanistan, but also that these funds were distributed and spent with a significant lack of transparency,” said the study’s authors.
This is in addition to the trillions of dollars spent on Department of Defense contracts performed in the U.S. over that period – and does not include other goods and services produced in the U.S. and used in the war in Afghanistan, such as weapons.
What’s more, this figure is just a fraction of the over $14 trillion in Pentagon spending since the start of the war in Afghanistan in total, with one-third to one-half of the total going to military contractors.
Over one-third of the contract spending went to “undisclosed” recipients – domestic and foreign businesses who are not uniquely identifiable in the publicly available contracting databases – USASpending.gov and the Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS).
Of the $108 billion spent in Afghanistan from fiscal years 2002-2022, over 40 percent went to the 14 largest companies, which each received over one billion dollars in total contract spending, with the largest receiving over $13.5 billion.
There were also thousands of smaller contracts.
When the Pentagon registers contract recipients as “undisclosed” or “miscellaneous,” it becomes difficult or impossible to track spending or conduct oversight to assess effectiveness and waste.
The U.S. Department of Defense has become increasingly reliant on private-sector contractors in the post-9/11 era.
Military contracting obscures where and how the money flows, it prevents policymakers from determining who profits, how much is lost to waste, fraud, and abuse, and it conceals how many people are employed, injured, and killed.
Of the $108 billion the U.S. Department of Defense spent on contracts for work performed in Afghanistan from 2002 through 2022, nearly 41 percent, or $44 billion, went to the largest 14 companies.
The total spent on undisclosed contractors was $37 billion, or more than 34 percent.
Most contracts for work in Afghanistan ended or were rescinded by August 31, 2021, when the last U.S. troops withdrew, but unless procedures are revises, American taxpayers will probably be robbed again the next time military forces are deployed just as they were during the nation’s longest war.