$28m uniform ‘waste’

WASHINGTON – US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis has criticised Pentagon officials for wasting as much as $28 million by making a questionable choice of forest camouflage-patterned uniforms for Afghan National Army soldiers.

The uniform pattern was selected without evaluating its effectiveness when only 2.1 per cent of Afghanistan was covered by forests, the US government’s top watchdog on Afghanistan said in a report last month.

The Afghan minister of defence at the time “liked the woodland, urban and temperate patterns,” the report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) said.

It potentially cost up to an additional $28m between 2008 and 2017, the watchdog said.

In a memo sent out to senior Pentagon officials on Friday and seen by Reuters, Mr Mattis said the SIGAR report was an example of a “complacent mode of thinking. Cavalier or casually acquiescent decisions to spend taxpayer dollars in an ineffective and wasteful manner are not to recur,” Mr Mattis wrote.

“Rather than minimise this report or excuse wasteful decisions, I expect all DoD (Department of Defence) organisations to use this error as a catalyst to bring to light wasteful practices and take aggressive steps to end waste,” he wrote.

The US House of Representatives Armed Services Committee had a hearing scheduled for today that would look at Pentagon equipment and uniform procurement in Afghanistan and Iraq.

President Donald Trump was weighing sending more US troops to Afghanistan to reverse the gains made by Taliban militants and support the fight against Islamic State and crafting a broader South Asia strategy.

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