News / Asia

US Watchdog Slams Afghanistan Aid Waste

FILE - Inspector General John Sopko.
FILE - Inspector General John Sopko.
Sharon Behn
A U.S. audit of billions of dollars it provided to rebuild war-ravaged Afghanistan shows many projects are plagued by poor planning, inadequate inspections, and a lack of accountability.

Since 2009, the U.S. government put $32 million into a project to prevent insurgents from placing explosives under roads.  But according to the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, no-one knows how much work was done.

In his July report to Congress, Inspector General John Sopko said it has been impossible to confirm the number of contracts issued for the project or whether required devices were installed in some 2,500 locations.

It is one of many incidents of a lack of oversight, the report said.

In one case, the inspector general found a $34 million military building in Helmand province was never needed, may never be occupied, and could be demolished.

In another, the U.S. Defense Department is  moving forward on spending nearly $772 million for aircraft the Afghan National Army currently cannot operate or maintain.
Sopko also told Congress that USAID’s $47 million Afghan stabilization program is suffering from repeated delays and is failing to meet contract objectives.

The director of the USAID program in Kabul, Mike McCord, told VOA that the agency has responded to the audit concerns but he did “not feel comfortable” specifying what has been done. He defended the program.

"Well we are proud of it and we think it is doing a great job and is making a difference in the lives of local communities and it is really helping in think in terms of dealing with one of the major issues around stability which is the ability of local governments to respond to the needs of their communities," said McCord.

According to USAID, the program has “engaged” about 2,000 Afghan government officials and community leaders. But the audit found none of the money has gone to grants funding community projects, as called for in the contracts.

Participants in one of the regional programs said they found the planning workshops tedious.

Consequently, the inspector general's report said, “the program is at risk of undercutting its stated objectives to promote stability and improve Afghan perceptions of their government.”

In an April report, an audit of health services found two new USAID-funded hospitals, costing $18.5 million, may not be sustainable.  Afghan officials have said they will not be able to fund the operation or maintain the hospitals.

Former ambassador and analyst Omar Samad at the New America Foundation, warns of the dangers of such miscalculations.

"Waste, mismanagement, fraud and corruption, undermine and damage not only relations between nations but also can undermine the mission overall.  The American people have been very generous over the last 12 years. It is taxpayers' money and there has to be accountability for it," said Samad.

Samad said oversight of U.S. aid to Afghanistan is crucial.

"Part of the accountability comes for the donor, and part of it from the recipient.  What we have seen in Afghanistan is that a lot of money has been spent, a lot of work has been accomplished, some very good, some not so good, and to have an entity like SIGAR as a watchdog look into the process and identify the area problems is important as long as action is taken to correct it," he said.

Congress has provided nearly $93 billion to build Afghan security forces, improve governance and foster economic development.  USAID has invested about $17 billion of that money in Afghanistan since 2002.

Inspector General Sopko says it is the most costly rebuilding of a single country in U.S. history. But he warns there appears to be a growing gap between Washington’s policy objectives and the reality of achieving them in Afghanistan.

You May Like

800-Pound Man Determined to Slim Down

Man says he was kicked out of hospital for ordering pizza; wants to be an actor More

Australia Prepares to Resettle 12,000 Syrian Refugees

Preference will be given to refugees from persecuted minorities, and the first group is expected to arrive before late December More

S. African Miners Seek Class Action Suit Against Gold Mines

The estimated 100,000 say say they contracted the lung diseases silicosis and tuberculosis in the mines More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs