May 24, 2018
A US government watchdog has found that the United States wasted billions of dollars, purportedly trying to stabilize fragile parts of Afghanistan over the past 17 years.
The assessment has been made by Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) John Sopko who presented a report in Washington on Thursday.
“Despite some heroic efforts to stabilize insecure and contested areas in Afghanistan between 2002 and 2017, the program mostly failed,” Sopko said.
Sopko went on to say that Washington had set unrealistic expectations for itself and overestimated its ability to build government institutions.
“This happened for a number of reasons, including the establishment of a set of unrealistic expectations about what could be achieved in just a few years’ time.”
The report also found that the US military pressured aid groups to build infrastructure in areas that were still being contested by the Taliban, leading to the failure of many projects.
“Opportunities for corruption and elite capture abounded, making many of those projects far more harmful than helpful,” the report stated.
The SIGAR analysis noted that successes in stabilizing Afghan districts rarely lasted longer than the physical presence of coalition troops.
“Under immense pressure to quickly stabilize insecure districts, US government agencies spent far too much money, far too quickly, in a country woefully unprepared to absorb it,” SIGAR noted.
Thursday’s report finds that bad strategies and policies in Afghanistan have led to billions wasted, more than 2,200 US troops killed and a dysfunctional country left behind.
The damning report found that much of the $4.7 billion spent on programs to stabilize areas cleared of insurgents has been largely wasted.
The US government has also appropriated about $126 billion purportedly set aside for rebuilding the country, most of it to train and equip security forces.
The huge flows of money into the impoverished country had the opposite effect of what was intended, the report said. Instead of bolstering the local government, the gusher of cash flooded the country with money that could not be spent fast enough.
“The large sums of stabilization dollars the United States devoted to Afghanistan in search of quick gains often exacerbated conflicts, enabled corruption, and bolstered support for insurgents,” the document stated.
“By fueling corruption and the population’s disillusionment with its government, the coalition undermined the very government it sought to legitimize and drove support for the insurgency.”
The US and its allies invaded Afghanistan on October 7, 2001 as part of Washington’s so-called war on terror. The offensive removed the Taliban regime from power, but after 17 years insecurity still persists in the country despite the presence of thousands of foreign troops.
After becoming president in 2008, Barack Obama vowed to end the US war in Afghanistan but failed to keep his promise.
President Donald Trump, who had spoken against the Afghanistan war during his election campaign, has also unveiled a strategy which foresees US troops staying in the country for a long haul.