Between fiscal years 2014-2016, the Pentagon sent US Africa Command (AFRICOM) and Central Command (CENTCOM) a combined $496 million to oversee and facilitate counter-narcotic activities in Africa. The funding was intended for a myriad of projects—from the construction of border outposts in allied nations, to training personnel in policing skills like evidence collections. Yet the Defense Department’s Inspector General (IG) stated that neither AFRICOM nor CENTCOM maintained reliable data for the completion status and funding of training, equipping, and construction activities. As Nick Turse reported for the Nation, the Inspector General’s assessment implies that no IG, AFRICOM or CENTCOM personnel have any clue about how much money was spent, what the money was spent on, whether projects were completed, or if it made a difference in the fight against the illegal drug trade.
Since 9/11, US military activity on the African continent has grown at an exponential rate. US troops are now conducting 3,500 exercises, programs, and activities per year, an average of nearly 10 missions a day. Meanwhile, America’s most elite troops—including Navy SEALs and Green Berets—deployed to no fewer than 33 of the 54 African countries last year. Many of the command’s missions focus on training local allies and proxies; these include not only foreign military aid and training, but also counternarcotic assistance.
However, when AFRICOM and CENTCOM provided spreadsheets on the US counter-narcotics campaign, the spreadsheets revealed inconsistent spending that did not correspond to other documents submitted for evaluation. A spreadsheet that tracked said projects was so incomplete that 43 percent of the efforts were never mentioned. Along with that, the military officials in charge of overseeing the projects wasted around $9 million in taxpayer dollars on so-called humanitarian and civil assistance projects that were not part of AFRICOM’s objectives. While AFRICOM and CENTCOM have made changes in how they track counter-narcotics aid, both seemingly remain hooked on pouring money into efforts that produced few successes.
Project Censored has previously covered reports of unaccountable military spending (including. most recently. “Over Six Trillion Dollars in Unaccountable Army Spending,” story #2 in Censored 2018) and controversy over the US AFRICOM mission (“AFRICOM: US Military Control of Africa’ Resources,” story #3 in Censored 2008). Turse’s Nation story documents the continuation of unsuccessful and costly efforts through recent AFRICOM and CENTCOM activities. There has been no coverage of this story by any establishment news outlets. The Nation is the only independent news source that has reported these findings.
Source: Nick Turse, “The Pentagon Sent $500 Million Abroad for International Drug Wars. What Happened Next Is a Mystery,” The Nation, February 8, 2018, https://www.thenation.com/article/the-pentagon-sent-500-million-abroad-for-international-drug-wars-what-happened-next-is-a-mystery/.
Student Researcher: Khari McKendell (San Francisco State University)
Faculty Researcher: Kenn Burrows (San Francisco State University)