Billions Spent in Afghanistan with No Game Plan
Policy + Politics

Billions Spent in Afghanistan with No Game Plan

Reuters/iStockphoto/The Fiscal Times

The United States has spent $100 billion to rebuild and strengthen Afghanistan—without bothering to put in place a strategy to protect some of that money from waste, fraud and abuse.

The lack of an anti-corruption strategy in Afghanistan is the latest outrage contained in an audit from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, John Sopka.

In a letter this week, Sopka warned agency officials, namely Secretary of State John Kerry, that corruption “remains a serious threat to reconstruction efforts” and without a comprehensive strategy it will be difficult to account for all of the funds and resources.”

The State Department, which is leading the reconstruction effort, is responsible for coming up with such a strategy.


It’s no secret that corruption is a huge problem in Afghanistan, which has the dubious distinction of being tied with Somalia and North Korea for the most corrupt country in the world, according to Transparency International’s Corruption index.

Without a strategy in place, the U.S. will continue being an ATM machine for corrupt officials and other bad actors.  Programs will exceed their budgets without any real assurance that they are working.

Back in 2010, for example, the United States provided about $50 billion for reconstruction without any strategy in place. A SIGAR audit found that anti-corruption efforts provided relatively little assistance to some key Afghan institutions. Still, an additional $46 billion in aid was doled out.

In the 2010 audit, SIGAR recommended that then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton approve and implement a draft comprehensive strategy created by the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan to combat corruption and protect tax dollars from waste. But the State Department never approved a strategy, and it, along with several other agencies continue doling out money without a plan.

In order to better manage resources going forward, SIGAR recommends that all agencies handling aid to Afghanistan develop a comprehensive and coordinated strategy for U.S. anti-corruption efforts.

This is just one of a handful of recent SIGAR audits that shows the lack of coordination and planning between agencies to manage billions in aid to Afghanistan.

Another report, released today, warns that other agencies charged with reducing waste among construction projects worth up to $4.7 trillion,don’t have procedures in place to determine which structures meet the Afghan Security Forces’ needs.

SIGAR said that these agencies, including the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, “may be missing opportunities to identify additional planned facilities that are candidates for consolidation or termination.” If identified, these projects could save U.S. taxpayers millions of dollars.