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Your Most Gigantic Waste of Taxpayer Money Today List, Afghan Edition

Our good friends at the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR) released a high-risk list for the Afghanistan reconstruction effort that calls attention to areas that are especially vulnerable to significant waste, fraud, and abuse.

Quick recap for those who haven’t binge-read the SIGAR reports for the past 13 or so years: the U.S. has spent $104 billion on the “reconstruction” of Afghanistan since 2001. The goal of all this was to defeat the Taliban with “soft power,” winning the hearts and minds of the Afghan people by building them stuff like the roads and bridges and schools America needs here at home, and by creating jobs and providing Afghans the job training needed here at home. This massive waste of money follows the failure of a similar multi-year effort in reconstructing Iraq. Success in both instances can be judged by the rising success of the Taliban/ISIS.

But anyway, enough about history. Here’s where your tax dollars are being specifically wasted in Afghanistan, as quoted from the SIGAR report!

1) Corruption/Rule of Law
–The initial U.S. strategy in Afghanistan fostered a political climate conducive to corruption.
–U.S. assistance has been provided for reconstruction without the benefit of a comprehensive anticorruption strategy.

2) Sustainability
–Much of the more than $104 billion the United States has committed to reconstruction projects and programs risks being wasted because the Afghans cannot sustain the investment without massive continued donor support.
–Under current and future plans, the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) are not fiscally sustainable.

3) Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) Capacity and Capabilities
–In an audit report on ANSF facilities, SIGAR found that the Afghan government would likely be incapable of fully sustaining ANSF facilities after the transition in 2014/2015 and the expected decrease in U.S. and Coalition support.
–An audit report raised concerned that, despite a $200 million literacy-training contract, no one appeared to know the overall literacy rate of the ANSF.

4) On-Budget Support
–SIGAR has long been concerned about the risk to U.S. funds provided to Afghanistan in the form of on-budget assistance, since 2002 U.S. has committed more than $7.7 billion.
–An audit of the $236 million Partnership Contracts for Health program found USAID continues to provide millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars in direct assistance with little assurance that the Afghan Ministry of Public Health is using these funds as intended.

5) Counternarcotics
–Although the U.S. has invested about $7.8 billion in counternarcotics efforts in Afghanistan, Afghan farmers are growing more opium than ever before.
–The latest U.S. strategy documents indicate that combating narcotics in Afghanistan is no longer a top priority.

6) Contract Management and Oversight Access
–No one knows the precise value of contracting in the Afghanistan reconstruction effort that began in 2002: the federal government has no central database on the subject.

7) Strategy and Planning
–Lack of “implementation/operational planning” — making sure that U.S. activities in Afghanistan actually contribute to overall national goals there — threatens to cause agencies and projects to work at counter purposes, spend money on frivolous endeavors, or fail to coordinate efforts to maximize impact.

What a great war we’re having!

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Peter Van Buren writes about current events at blog. His book,Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the #99Percent, is available now from Amazon

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Peter Van Buren

Peter Van Buren

Peter Van Buren has served with the Foreign Service for over 23 years. He received a Meritorious Honor Award for assistance to Americans following the Hanshin earthquake in Kobe, a Superior Honor Award for helping an American rape victim in Japan, and another award for work in the tsunami relief efforts in Thailand. Previous assignments include Taiwan, Japan, Korea, the UK and Hong Kong. He volunteered for Iraq service and was assigned to ePRT duty 2009-10. His tour extended past the withdrawal of the last combat troops.

Van Buren worked extensively with the military while overseeing evacuation planning in Japan and Korea. This experience included multiple field exercises, plus civil-military work in Seoul, Tokyo, Hawaii, and Sydney with allies from the UK, Australia, and elsewhere. The Marine Corps selected Van Buren to travel to Camp Lejeune in 2006 to participate in a field exercise that included simulated Iraqi conditions. Van Buren spent a year on the Hill in the Department of State’s Congressional Liaison Office.

Van Buren speaks Japanese, Chinese Mandarin, and some Korean (the book’s all in English, don’t worry). Born in New York City, he lives in Virginia with his spouse, two daughters, and a docile Rottweiler.

Though this is his first book, Peter’s commentary has been featured on TomDispatch, Salon, Huffington Post, The Nation, American Conservative Magazine, Mother Jones, Michael Moore.com, Le Monde, Daily Kos, Middle East Online, Guernica and others.

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