The U.S.’s $104 billion-and-counting efforts to rebuild Afghanistan are under constant scrutiny for falling short on coordination and oversight, which has put much of that money at risk.
The federal auditor tasked with keeping tabs on where U.S. tax dollars are going has repeatedly flagged vulnerabilities that jeopardize the overall program. Just last week, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) said that the Pentagon can’t account for how its spent more than $1.3 billion intended to build roads, bridges and schools.
Now, a new report from the auditors suggests that agencies involved in the rebuilding are struggling to coordinate their efforts.
SIGAR reported that a $488 million fund intended to help prop up the country’s mining, oil and gas industry is vulnerable to waste, fraud and abuse because the agencies responsible for the program—the State Department, USAID and the Pentagon’s Task Force for Business and Stability Operations (TFBSO)—are disorganized and don’t talk to each other.
The lack of coordination has led the agencies to each implement different programs—resulting in duplication and projects that weren’t planned well enough to be sustainable, the auditors said.
“Without sound sustainability planning within and among all agencies active in Afghanistan's extractive industries, the $488 million U.S. government investment in efforts to develop Afghanistan's extractive industries could be wasted,” SIGAR said.
In one instance, a senior official at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul said that the embassy didn’t know anything about a $40 million TFBSO project until Afghan government officials thanked the ambassador for the support.
The auditors recommended that the three agencies improve communication strategies and develop a system to better track what each of them is doing to bolster Afghanistan’s oil and gas industry.
Officials from USAID, State, and TFBSO all conceded that coordination efforts had all but fallen apart by last year and agreed to the auditors’ recommendations.
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