The Telegraph, July 31, 2014
Afghanistan has cost more to rebuild than Europe after Second World War, lost to corruption
A US government report reveals corruption and waste have pushed the cost of reconstruction beyond the total spent under the Marshall Plan
By Keith Perry
The cost of rebuilding Afghanistan has exceeded the amount of money spent putting Europe back on its feet after the Second World War, it has been disclosed.
A US government report revealed the unprecedented levels of corruption and waste that have pushed the cost of reconstruction beyond the total spent under the Marshall Plan. British and other western troops are preparing to leave the country at the end of the year.
American taxpayers have provided £61.5 billion since 2002 and Britain about £890 million, for hundreds of development projects. The military operation has cost America a further £296 billion and Britain £22 billion, the Times reported.
However, the US watchdog on American spending in Afghanistan says that most of the projects it analysed were undermined by “poor planning, shoddy construction, mechanical failures and inadequate oversight”.
The Marshall Plan cost the equivalent of £61 billion at today’s prices, says the report, which was presented to the US Congress this week.
Professor Michael Clarke, director of the Royal United Services Institute think-tank, said: “The world will look back on Afghanistan and Iraq as examples of really poor thinking and planning.”
The economic assistance programme initiated by General George Marshall, the US secretary of state, generated decades of prosperity in western Europe.
By contrast, nearly 13 years after the Taliban were overthrown, the US and other donors continue to fund 60 per cent of the Afghan national budget and are pledged to underwrite a further “decade of transformation” in the country.
For the US, Britain and other coalition partners, Afghanistan has been a hugely expensive exercsise, but with five months to go before the mission switches from a military operation to a relatively small “advise and assist” programme, there remain concerns that Taliban insurgents will sabotage continuing efforts to redevelop the country.
“Large areas of the country will soon be off limits to US personnel due to base closures and troop withdrawals,” the report by the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction says.
Confidence that aid money will end up in the right hands will also lessen dramatically as Nato pulls out troops, the report says. About 80 per cent of the country is already beyond the reach of US government monitors, according to an estimate last October.
Senior members of the Afghan government have accrued vast wealth since 2001 including members of President Karzai’s family. A US army analysis made public in April said: “Corruption directly threatens the viability and legitimacy of the Afghan state.”
Western forces quickly found themselves “trapped in a warlord protection racket”, it added.
In his latest report, the inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, John Sopko, highlighted numerous examples of waste.
Despite $7.6 billion spent on counter-narcotics operations, opium production has increased for the past three years and is now at record levels.
America and the EU spent more than $3billion on building up the Afghan police force, yet 54,000 of those policemen are “ghosts” — non-existent but being paid each month.
Mr Sopko found that 16 Italian-built C27 transport planes worth $486 million had been left to rot next to the runway at Kabul airport.
The US had provided 747,000 firearms to Afghan security forces worth $626 million. They found that 43 per cent have disappeared from official stock lists that track their whereabouts in Afghanistan.
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