The United States has spent billions of American taxpayer dollars on reconstruction projects in Afghanistan that were either not needed or not wanted by authorities in the war-torn country, a new report says.
The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) has documented the massive waste in a report submitted to U.S. lawmakers Monday.
The agency evaluated nearly $7.8 billion spent since 2008 to build, finance or subsidize schools, prisons, a hotel, hospitals, roads, bridges and Afghan military facilities. It identified the U.S. Department of Defense as the largest contributor at $6.5 billon.
SIGAR found that about $2.4 billion “in assets that were unused or abandoned had not been used for their intended purposes, had deteriorated, or were destroyed.”
By contrast, the report said, more than $1.2 billion out of the $7.8 billion in U.S.-funded assets were being used as intended, and only $343.2 million worth of assets were “maintained in good condition.”
The study quoted Special Inspector General John Sopko as saying they determined a pattern of U.S. agencies “pouring too much money, too quickly, into a country too small to absorb it.”
In violation of multiple U.S. laws, many of the U.S.-funded facilities and assets were provided to the Afghan government even without asking them if they wanted or needed the buildings or if they had the technical ability to keep them running.
“The fact that so many capital assets wound up not used, deteriorated or abandoned should have been a major cause of concern for the agencies financing these projects,” Sopko said.
As of last December 2020, Washington had appropriated about $143 billion for reconstruction and related activities in Afghanistan since 2002, according to SIGAR. The massive expenditure was intended to foster goodwill and jump-start development that U.S. officials hoped would help spur peace and stability in the conflict-torn country.
U.S. lawmakers created SIGAR in 2008 to identify waste, fraud and abuse in American taxpayer-funded projects in Afghanistan. The agency has since been producing quarterly reports, often exposing serious gaps in planning and contract execution.
SIGAR’s latest findings come as President Joe Biden is reassessing a peace agreement that his predecessor, Donald Trump, signed with the Taliban insurgency a year ago to promote a negotiated settlement to the 19-year-old Afghan war.
The deal requires the remaining 2,500 U.S. troops to leave Afghanistan by May 1, 2021, to close what has been the longest-running U.S. war, costing Washington the lives of more than 2,400 soldiers and nearly $1 trillion.
SIGAR noted that the actual amount of waste “is almost certainly higher” because it has not inspected all U.S.-funded “capital asset projects” in Afghanistan.