Rampant waste plagues US efforts to rebuild Afghanistan – report

US Marines of 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines grab a wood sheet to use as a roof as they build an obervation point on the perimeter of their combat outpost recently set up in Marjah, Helmand province, southern Afghanistan (AFP Photo/Mauricio Lima)
US reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan used as a tool to curb the Taliban insurrection, are running far behind schedule and will not produce results, a government report claims.

The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction warns that once American troops leave the country, Afghans will have no way to complete the projects.

“Implementing projects that the Afghan government is unable to sustain may be counter-productive,”

the Inspector General wrote.

The study examined the Afghan Infrastructure Fund, for which the Department of Defense and State Department secured a $400 million budget from Congress in 2010. Since then, Washington supplied at least $1.5 billion to related infrastructure programs. The money was intended to fund infrastructure improvements in the country to support the US counterinsurgency campaign.

Seven projects have been slated for completion by mid-2013. Four of the five delayed projects involve building power lines; the fifth aims to construct provincial justice centers across the country.

The report heavily criticized a plan to use diesel generators to generate electricity for the country’s second-largest city, Kandahar, as a stopgap until the US Agency for International Development and the US Army Corps of Engineers install a hydropower turbine at a dam in conflict-ridden Helmand Province.

The work is projected to cost US taxpayers roughly $220 million through 2013, and there are no guarantees the Taliban will not seize control of the dam following the planned US troop withdrawal.

The Inspector General also warns a $23 million road in Helmand Province could spark a violent public backlash, since the Afghan government has yet to compensate owners who had buildings demolished during construction.

In addition, the report reveals that four $300 million electricity projects do not have contractors, despite assertions from Washington that they will yield strong counterinsurgency benefits.

The document concludes that the failure of the US to deliver on these projects has produced an “expectations gap” among the population that could impair stabilization efforts.

In response to the strong criticism from the Inspector General, the US Embassy in Kabul dismissed the concerns as “speculative,” the Washington Post reports.

"Given the nature of what we're trying to do here, we don't expect to be going in one single, linear positive direction … It's more like going up and down and backward a few steps and then forward a few more", the New York Times reports, quoting an anonymous US official in Kabul.

But critics of US policy in Afghanistan insist that funnelling money to Kabul will not make the war-torn country more secure.

“There’s no data that shows these major projects have changed the security environment in the country. We cannot just throw money at a country like this and expect it to have a good ending,” Sen. Claire McCaskill was quoted as saying in the Washington Post.