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Reuters/Jean-Paul Pelissier

A US watchdog is asking why 16 planes bought for the Afghan Air Force, costing almost $500 million, were turned into scrap metal valued at just $32,000. The government wants to know why hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ money were wasted on the project.

The military transport planes had been sitting at Kabul International Airport for years, before they were sent for scrap. John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), wants to know why the money was wasted. According to Reuters, he had asked Air Force Secretary Deborah James to keep a record of all decisions concerning the destruction of the 16 C-27J planes.

Sopko also wants to know what will happen to another four transport planes currently stored at the US Air Force base in Ramstein, Germany.

“I am concerned that the officials responsible for planning and executing the scrapping of the planes may not have considered other possible alternatives in order to salvage taxpayer dollars,”Sopko said.

The 20 planes were bought from Alenia, which is part of the Italian aircraft company Fimmeccanica SpA. However, according to a SIGAR letter sent to US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, the program was ended in March 2013, “after sustained, serious performance, maintenance, and spare parts problems and the planes were grounded,”ABC reported.

By January 2013, according to Sopko’s office, the aircraft were not airworthy and had only flown a total of 234 of the 4,500 hours required in nine months from January through September 2012. Spoko’s office also said that a further $200 million was needed to buy spare parts.

Read more at RT News