4/26/13, "The US Is Still Spending Billions In Afghanistan, But No One Seems To Care," Fiscal Times, David Francis, via Business Insider
"Hard-fought gains in Afghanistan over
the last decade are at risk of being squandered – unless immediate
action is taken to determine the fate of tens of billions of dollars in
questionable reconstruction projects, the chief of the Afghan audit
In an exclusive interview with The Fiscal Times, John F.
Sopko, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, said
that the Pentagon, aid agencies and the State Department must quickly
evaluate these projects to determine whether the billions being spent in
Afghanistan right now will yield the desired results or not. Many
projects are simply not sustainable, he said – and continuing to spend
money on them results not just in a wasted fortune, but very real risks
to nearly 70,000 American soldiers who are still there.
“They have not thought about sustainability,” Sopko said, referring
to the military, aid agencies and the State Department. “If you don’t
think about that, you’re going to build a bridge and give it to the
Afghans who can’t sustain it.”
He added, “There’s pervasive corruption throughout the country.”
These warnings from Sopko – who was appointed to his post last
summer by President Obama – come as lawmakers, the public, and the
policy community in D.C. have largely turned their attention away from
the war and from the soldiers still fighting and dying
there. Despite spending some $500 billion to fight in Afghanistan, the
war is becoming invisible. Sopko and his team at SIGAR are among the few
voices reminding the country about financial mismanagement, corruption
and the continuing threat to American lives.
“I believe in the mission in Afghanistan,” he said. “We lost too many lives and we’ve spent too much money” to ignore it.
Dollars to the Taliban
In recent months, SIGAR has been especially busy identifying waste,
fraud and abuse. Earlier this month, it found that a $53 million USAID
project meant to supply power to Kandahar was unsustainable.
It also found that millions of contracting dollars have ultimately ended up in the hands of the Taliban. As The Fiscal Times
recently reported, the Pentagon did not have the required protocols in
place to prevent 80 percent of all contracts from getting into the hands of the enemy.
A quarterly report issued by SIGAR in January said that the United
States has spent more than half of the nearly $100 billion in Afghan
reconstruction funds on developing the country’s police and security
forces. But numerous reports have found that the Afghan forces are not
ready to take over security responsibilities.
Two recent SIGAR reports also found that police and Army buildings
built by the United States for $26 million in two key strategic
provinces were underutilized or sat empty. One was even being used as a chicken coop.
All of this is especially troubling in the wake of a February 2013
GAO report that determined Afghanistan would essentially collapse
without extensive U.S. financial support. Sopko painted a picture of a
country with intractable corruption, a U.S. military that had not
properly planned or executed countless projects, and an aid apparatus
failed to acknowledge realities on the ground.
to effectively monitor money being
given to the Afghan government, suggested Sopko. “When I talk to some of
the people in USAID, they refer to direct assistance programs they’ve
done in Egypt and Israel. They’re not Afghanistan. I’m looking for
models where this has worked in a kinetic environment,” he said."...via Lucianne