Watchdog: US Intervention in Afghanistan a $5 Billion Failure
May 26, 2018
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com & Courtney Kube / CBS News
The US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) has issued a new report Thursday. The report concluded that the 15-year, $5 billion Afghan stabilization program has been a failure. Unrealistic expectations and a lack of political will doomed the rebuilding effort, according to a new report.
US Set Unrealistic Expectations,
15-year Program 'Mostly Failed'
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(May 24, 2018) – The US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) has issued a new report Thursday. The report concluded that the 15-year, $5 billion Afghan stabilization program has been a failure.
SIGAR concluded that the US had "unrealistic expectations" for the timeline of stabilizing Afghanistan, and that many of the programs they attempted actually backfired. He concluded the program in general had "mostly failed."
The report said that the problem was that they focused on the most dangerous districts in Afghanistan first, where the poor security made it virtually impossible to follow through on building projects. When the US withdrew from those areas, the programs ended outright.
Other programs, which weren't meant to increase Afghan government control, backfired even worse. In giving the corrupt Afghan government control over more districts, they exposed those areas to much greater corruption
US Effort to Stabilize Afghanistan
Is $5 Billion Failure, Watchdog Says
Courtney Kube / CBS News
WASHINGTON (May.24.2018) -- The watchdog responsible for monitoring the US government's effort to rebuild Afghanistan says the 15-year, $5 billion effort hasn't worked, according to a report released Thursday.
The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) says the US set unrealistic expectations for stabilizing Afghanistan on a short timeline, that the Obama administration lacked the political will to invest the necessary time and effort to stabilize the country, and that some efforts to bolster the Afghan government actually backfired.
The report examines stabilization efforts from 2002, soon after the US began military operations in the country, to 2017.
In 2003, the US launched a counterinsurgency mission in Afghanistan that would come to include a clear-hold-build strategy. US forces were instructed to clear an area, hold it and then build institutions.
The report says the effort proved ineffective in stabilization because the military focused on the most dangerous districts first, where poor security made it hard to move on to the building phase. US civilian agencies were compelled to conduct their stabilization programs in dangerous areas not ready for rebuilding, and once coalition troops and civilians left those districts the stabilization ended.
Some efforts to introduce increased Afghan government control also produced unintended consequences, according to the report, because they created more opportunities for corruption.
By 2008, the security situation in much of the country had deteriorated and insurgent attacks began to mount.
The report focuses most of its attention on a period beginning in 2009, when the incoming Obama administration attempted to reverse the decline, and when the US spent the bulk of the $4.7 billion that has been dedicated to stabilization since 2002.
But the Obama administration also had a drawdown clock for removing US forces from Afghanistan, and the report says the decision to draw down forces on timelines unrelated to conditions on the ground "had a profound and harmful impact" on later decisions about stabilization.
According to the report, the US military and State Department were continually racing against this clock, which said that in 2011 US "surge" troops would start to leave the country, and in 2014 the Afghan government would take security control of the entire country.
In 2009 and 2010, the Obama administration committed more than 50,000 troops to clear the most dangerous areas of the country, and hundreds of civilians followed to rebuild the war-torn areas. The surge was limited to 18 months.
"In the hope of compensating for a lack of time," the report says, the US threw more money at the problem, increasing spending in the most dangerous areas. The large sums of money spent "in search of quick gains often exacerbated conflicts, enabled corruption and bolstered support for insurgents."
Without consistent security progress in any district, locals were not convinced the coalition could protect them if they turned against the insurgents, according to the report. And without confidence in the government, they were too afraid to serve in the local government and military.
One solution was to build the Afghan Local Police (ALP) to compensate, but it grew at what the report terms an "unsustainable rate" from 6,500 in 2011 to 24,000 in 2013. Militias that had operated outside the government were absorbed into the ALP without proper vetting.
In general, the report finds that the US government "greatly overestimated its ability to build and reform" Afghan government institutions and did not tailor the programs to Afghanistan.
"Even under the best circumstances, stabilization takes time. Without the patience and political will for a planned and prolonged effort, large-scale stabilization missions are likely to fail."
Despite the harsh assessment, SIGAR writes that future efforts to stabilize other nations should not be abandoned.
"Poor results of this particular stabilization mission make it tempting to conclude that stabilization should not be conducted in the future at all," says the report. Future efforts could be successful, the report concludes, if there are realistic expectations of the level of effort required and what is achievable, better preparation and improved oversight.
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