WASHINGTON: The Pentagon wasted millions of dollars buying the Afghan army a woodland camouflage uniform that was apparently chosen on a whim and may have made soldiers easier to spot, a US government watchdog said on Wednesday.

The office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) said the Pentagon may have spent as much as $28 million more than necessary when it decided in 2007 to purchase the dark-green camouflage uniforms.

Pentagon officials at the time “ran across” the website of a private company that owned a proprietary camo design and showed these to Afghanistan’s then defence minister, Abdul Rahim Wardak, the SIGAR report said, citing Pentagon officials. He “liked what he saw. He liked the woodland, urban and temperate patterns,” it added.

After further consultation with the Afghan defence ministry, officials decided in 2007 to adopt the camouflage pattern containing a “forest” colour scheme for army uniforms, “despite the fact that forests cover only 2.1 per cent of Afghanistan’s total land area”, SIGAR noted.

That decision resulted in the purchase of 1,364,602 such uniforms and 88,010 extra pairs of pants between November 2008 and January this year.

The proprietary design meant the uniforms cost about 40 per cent more than non-proprietary camouflage.

The highly critical SIGAR report also says officials ordered the uniforms without conducting any formal testing or evaluation.

“As a result, neither [the US Department of Defence] nor the Afghan government knows whether the ANA [Afghan National Army] uniform is appropriate to the Afghan environment, or whether it actually hinders their operations by providing a more clearly visible target to the enemy,” SIGAR said.

In a written response included in the report, the Pentagon said it should conduct a cost-benefit analysis of current ANA uniform specifications “to determine whether there is a

more effective alternative considering both operational environment and cost”.