SIGAR Office of Special Projects: The Human Cost of Reconstruction in Afghanistan

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The Honorable Michael Pompeo Secretary of State
The Honorable Mark T. Esper Secretary of Defense
The Honorable Mark Green Administrator, United States Agency for International Development Lieutenant General Todd T. Semonite Commanding General and Chief of Engineers U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

For years, SIGAR has spent considerable effort to track the financial costs of reconstruction and stabilization activities in Afghanistan. However, little effort has been made up to now to track the human costs – the number of people killed, wounded, or kidnapped – to accomplish these activities. This has left policy makers with an incomplete picture of the true cost of our efforts in Afghanistan. This report is, as far as we know, the first official government effort by an independent Inspector General to do so.

To provide the most comprehensive estimate as to the number of casualties that occurred on reconstruction and stabilization-related missions, we reviewed multiple casualty-related sources, including information provided by the Departments of Defense, State, and Labor, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), the Joint ImprovisedThreat Defeat Organization (JIDO), the University of Maryland’s Global Terrorism Database, and several open sources. In addition, we reviewed data in the Synchronized Pre-deployment and Operational Tracker (SPOT) database, which is the database DOD, State and USAID agreed to use to track all contractors working on U.S. funded contracts. However, that data was incomplete.1 We also reviewed information provided to the Department of Labor for insurance claims under the Defense Base Act but our analysis showed this data was also incomplete.

For this review, we counted a casualty as reconstruction- or stabilization-related if: (1) the casualty’s primary mission at the time was specifically related to conducting reconstruction or stabilization activities; or (2) the casualty was a bystander at the site of these activities.
We conservatively identified 5,135 casualties in Afghanistan associated with reconstruction or stabilization missions, from then-President Bush’s formal announcement of the beginning of our reconstruction mission in Afghanistan on April 17, 2002 to December 31, 2018. This total includes 2,214 killed and 2,921 wounded.

We also identified 1,182 individuals that were kidnapped or missing.

• At least 284 Americans were killed in Afghanistan while performing reconstruction or stabilization missions. This includes 216 U.S. service members and 68 U.S. civilians (government employees, contractors, and those with unknown statuses). An additional 245 service members and 76 civilians were wounded.2

• 100 other Coalition service members were killed and 105 wounded; 3

• An additional 124 third country nationals (TCNs) were killed, another 87 wounded and 59 kidnapped; and,

• 1,578 Afghans (local nationals) were killed, 2,246 were wounded, and 1,004 kidnapped.
These casualty figures do not include:

• Casualties that occurred during combat and counter-terrorism missions, such as patrols, raids, and ambushes;

• Casualties that occurred during combat support missions unrelated to reconstruction;

• Military and civilian logistics resupply missions unless the casualty occurred during missions where the convoys were specifically carrying reconstruction materials;

• Enemy attacks on Afghan government or military sites;4 • Casualties that occurred from accidents;

• Suicides or homicides;

• Deaths from natural causes;

• Enemy casualties, including suicide bombers;

• Attacks at locations unrelated to reconstruction activities such as private homes, businesses, bazaars, banks, mosques or other public gathering places;

• Casualties that occurred before April 17, 2002 and after December 31, 2018.

We received technical comments on a draft of this report from USACE on January 2, 2020; from DOS on January 3, 2020; from DOD on January 9, 2020; from the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan (CSTC-A) on January 10, 2020; from U.S. Central Command on January 23, 2020; and from the Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC) on 28 January which were all incorporated in the final report as appropriate.

We also received written comments from USAID on January 9, 2020. USAID commented that they take “very seriously any casualty incidents involving its implementing partners” and thanked SIGAR for exploring this important topic (USAID’s written comments are reproduced in Appendix I).