Expensive chaos: Billions of dollars meant for Afghanistan development wasted
'A lot of fraud' in Afghanistan is hampering any positive results Western money might bring, the head of oversight for US work in Afghanistan believes. RT’s correspondent in Kabul has witnessed some of the misspending.
As the upcoming presidential election in Afghanistan approaches, Kabul remains financially backed by the White House with billions of dollars being streamed into the Islamic state.
The US has shown it is keen on improving infrastructure and living conditions to justify its 12-year-long presence in the country. However, the latest auditing reports have said a lot of this cash is being wasted, or swallowed by corruption.
One of the most ambitious US projects in Afghanistan has been road construction, with $2 billion of USAID money being poured into it.
However, Kabul’s worn-out and bumpy roads leave one wondering where this impressive sum of money has actually gone.
— Lucy Kafanov (@LucyKafanov) April 1, 2014
“Across the country more than 10, 000 miles of roads and highways constructed by Western donors have fallen apart,” RT’s Lucy Kafanov says. “Some because of overuse, others have been shredded by explosives, laid down by insurgents.”
Having built thousands of miles of roads since 2001, the United
States has not funded their maintenance since 2012.
Washington has been shifting its aid from financing programs managed by American officials to giving resources directly to the Afghan government. And that’s considered a big challenge, as according to recent findings by Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), none of Afghanistan’s 16 ministries can be entrusted with US funds without a high risk of that assistance being stolen or wasted.
“We’re dealing with a very corrupt country”, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, John F. Sopko, told the Washington Post on Monday. “We have a very poorly run and corrupt Ministry of Justice, attorney general’s office and judiciary [in Afghanistan]. So it’s very difficult for us to reach out and grab a contractor or subcontractor.”
Earlier Sopko called the strategy of delivering more direct assistance to the Afghan government as “the biggest gamble with taxpayer money that USAID has ever made.”
Virtually non-existent roads are just one example of US funds being mismanaged in Afghanistan.
Since the start of combat operations, the US has spent around $100 billion to help rebuild Afghanistan. While some of it has really helped to improve lives in the country, a lot of it has also been wasted.
A stark example is Salang Hospital in Parwan province, which cost taxpayers $597,929. But it is so poorly constructed doctors have been forced to wash infants in untreated river water. There’s mold and mildew throughout the facility, barely no equipment, and just enough electricity to power a handful of light bulbs.
When NBC News went there in January, they witnessed a girl having her tooth extracted with pliers, because doctors at the expensive facility lacked the necessary dental equipment.
Another example of US financial aid being wasted in Afghanistan is the huge $34 million military headquarters in the south west of the country. The vast operation center boasts tiered seating and a briefing theatre. While Western forces have been busy packing up and withdrawing from the area, the facility has never been occupied and will likely be torn down without ever having been used.
Washington’s literacy program for Afghan soldiers has also failed. The US added to their training classes of basic writing, reading and math. But despite $200 million spent on the program, more than half of Afghani forces remain illiterate, according to the January SIGAR report.
Washington’s strategy in Afghanistan relied heavily on spending more money, on quicker and bigger projects in a surge to win hearts and minds.
Despite reports showing US financial aid is being excessively mismanaged, Washington continues pumping money into the country.
In February, USAID announced three new development programs worth almost $300 million for Afghanistan.
To learn more about the misspending of US funds in Afghanistan, watch RT Lucy Kafanov’s report from Kabul.