Hundreds of millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars being spent on construction projects in Afghanistan may be counterproductive in addition to being wasteful, according to the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction and reported by Rajiv Chandrasekaran of the Washington Post.The projects were originally hailed as a vital tool in the counterinsurgency campaign against the Taliban, but many have not even begun while others will be unsustainable after U.S. combat troops leave by the end of 2014.
From the Washington Post:
“Implementing projects that the Afghan government is unable to sustain may be counterproductive” to the U.S. counterinsurgency mission, the inspector general wrote. “If goals are set and not achieved, both the U.S. and Afghan governments can lose the populace’s support.”
The report specifically examined the Afghan Infrastructure Fund – a massive fund authorised by Congress in 2010 that allows the defence and State departments to pool money for bankrolling large infrastructure improvements aimed at supporting the counterinsurgency campaign.
Over the past two years Congress has put $800 million in the fund and the State Department has committed about $1 billion to related infrastructure projects.
The report revealed that four electricity projects – at a cost of more than $300 million from the fund – have not even been awarded to contractors yet.
It also highlighted a project to provide electricity to 2,500 houses in Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second- largest city, by purchasing diesel to fuel generators until a hydropower turbine is installed at a dam in Helmand province. The cost of the diesel to U.S. taxpayers will be $220 million through 2013.
U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Kenneth Dahl, the deputy commander of U.S. in Kandahar last year, told his staff that he couldn’t find any evidence that the additional electricity was even helping bring stability, employment or government support in the region.
Furthermore the turbine at the dam will produce significantly less electricity than the generators, and the Afghan government will not be able to afford the diesel to run them, so the situation will get worse.
Insurgent attacks in Afghanistan rose by 11 per cent in the past three months compared with the same period last year.
Previous critiques of the almost $90 billion spent on Afghan reconstruction and development over the past decade have focused on waste and corruption, but the new report suggests that some projects may be misguided from the beginning.
“There’s no data that shows these major projects have changed the security environment in the country,” Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said after seeing the report. “We cannot just throw money at a country like this and expect it to have a good ending.”
The inspector general also found that several police stations – built by the U.S. at a cost of $19 million – have been largely abandoned or left unoccupied, as Nathan Hodge of WSJ reports.
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