U.S. Funding Unsustainable Projects — and Its Own Enemies — in Afghanistan

By:  Michael Tennant
04/15/2013
       
U.S. Funding Unsustainable Projects — and Its Own Enemies — in Afghanistan

According to the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, U.S. aid to Afghanistan is being wasted on projects the Afghan government cannot sustain.

When it is not simply being wasted, U.S. aid to Afghanistan is being spent on projects that the Afghan government does not have the capacity to sustain, and “millions” of taxpayer dollars could be ending up in the hands of the enemy, according to Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) John Sopko.

“Afghanistan is already the most costly reconstruction effort carried out in U.S. history” and is expected to remain “the largest recipient of [U.S.] assistance for years to come,” reports the Washington Free Beacon. Last year that nation received more than $16 billion in U.S. aid for security forces and reconstruction projects; and with the World Bank estimating that it will need $70 billion in additional aid over the next decade — much of it coming from U.S. taxpayers — Americans have good reason to be concerned about the problems SIGAR has highlighted.

“SIGAR’s audits and inspections have repeatedly found that inadequate planning and lack of coordination have led to waste, increased costs, delays, and unsustainable projects, as well as facilities that are not being used for their intended purposes,” John F. Sopko, the current SIGAR, told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform April 10.

Projects suffer from both poor quality assurance and poor security, Sopko said. Security has become an increasing problem since Afghan law began requiring contractors and nonprofit organizations to contract with government security forces rather than private ones. Matters are only expected to worsen as U.S. forces are withdrawn.

Those projects that haven’t suffered are still at risk, Sopko testified. “The United States has provided tens of billions of dollars for infrastructure, everything from roads and electricity networks to schools, clinics, and security force facilities,” he said. “However, as we and the World Bank have pointed out, the Afghan government lacks the revenue, institutional capacity, and human capital to operate and maintain much of this infrastructure.” In other words, all of this work — and expense — may well end up being for naught once Afghanistan is left to fend for itself.

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