We Spent Millions so Afghans Could Film Live Sports With Headless Goat Carcasses—And Screwed It Up

One of the TV trucks under tarps in Kabul, Afghanistan<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/sigarhq/15429624960/">Special IG for Afghanistan Reconstruction</a>/Flickr

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In August 2011, the State Department purchased broadcast trucks for Afghan TV stations, for $3.6 million (206 million Afghanis), to help them tape live sporting events, like “buzkashi, soccer, cricket, and other sports.” (Buzkashi, Afghanistan’s national sport, translates to “goat grabbing” where horse-mounted players drag a headless goat carcass towards opposing goals.)

But no one has been able to watch any goat carcasses filmed by those trucks in the past two years, because those trucks didn’t show up until late July. And now, they’re sitting around under tarps, unused—because the State Department could cancel the contract whenever it wants.

A scene from Buzkashi Boys depicting men playing buzkashi. Buzkashi Boys

John Spoko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), sent Secretary of State John Kerry a letter demanding an explanation for the delayed TV trucks on Friday.

According to the letter, in addition to the late delivery, the price of the television trucks “more than tripled” since the original order date. And, one of the trucks “was damaged in transit.” As of September, the trucks are still sitting under tarps as the SIGAR staff waits for the State Department to accept delivery.

Spoko claims that, because the trucks were delivered so late, the State Department may elect to end the contract and take the trucks back. After the late delivery, the tripled unit cost and several contract modifications, Spoko is wary of how aboveboard this deal really is: “If this information is accurate, it suggests that something is seriously wrong with the way this contract was managed.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that SIGAR had “teamed up” with State to purchase the trucks. SIGAR is investigating the arrangement. It was not involved in it.

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In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

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