Congress Calls for End to Costly Cash and Works Program for Iraq and Afghanistan

Billions spent trying to win support in Iraq and Afghanistan

Throughout decades of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the US tried to win hearts and minds through cold, hard cash, in the form of grants and paying for certain work projects they figured everyone would like.

The House Appropriations Committee is calling for the program, officially dubbed the Commander’s Emergency Response Program, to be phased out this year. After two decades and several billion dollars vanishing into the aether of occupied territories, they’re figuring that enough is enough.

The Pentagon didn’t address this directly, but a recent GAO report faulted the lack of training for commanders in how to spend money on these programs, and noted that the lack of oversight led to a lot of fraud.

The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction had been panning the program in its report for years, saying there was little documentation as to where the money went or whether the projects were worthwhile.

Notoriously, the program will be remembered for flying pallets of money into the nations, with the cash coming in the front door and disappearing out the back. It was a tailor-made recipe for bribery to create the appearance of military progress, and rarely even produced that.

Officials insist that the program was started with the best of intentions, and at the end of the day there may have had some quiet successes on which it could’ve hung its hat. Sadly, the lack of paperwork meant even if things went well, we were never going to hear about it, and instead the program was a symbol of military largess in losing wars.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.