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Washington Examine, November 3, 2018

In Afghanistan, failure is heaped on failure

The inspector general counted 56 attacks this year on Afghan national defense and security forces from within their own ranks

We have failed in Afghanistan, and our government is beginning to admit it.

Numbers from the 41st quarterly report to Congress by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, SIGAR, offer a clear and bleak assessment, reaffirming what the public and lawmakers have long known, which is that President George W. Bush's ambitious project to build a nation-state in that remote tribal territory was flawed and unrealistic. It has failed spectacularly.

Despite thousands of American lives, billions of dollars, and more than 17 years of American military operations there, the Kabul government is losing, not gaining, control of territory, the Taliban fights on, corruption is endemic and rampant, elections are violent, democracy is incapable of taking hold, and the war on drugs is a failure.

The government in Kabul, which we prop up, controls just over 55 percent of the country, lower than at any time since the inspector general began keeping track at the district level in 2015.
Washington Examiner, Nov. 3, 2018

The government in Kabul, which we prop up, controls just over 55 percent of the country, lower than at any time since the inspector general began keeping track at the district level in 2015.

Even in districts considered under control, Kabul’s influence has declined. The inspector general counted 56 attacks this year on Afghan national defense and security forces from within their own ranks.

Although Americans advise and train Afghan forces, the report indicates that the Pentagon “cannot track progress if any.” So, despite years of massive expenditure, we can’t even figure out how poorly we're doing at getting Afghan troops up to snuff.

Key state-building measures such as efforts to end or reduce corruption are also a tale of failure. The Department of Justice notes that “the Afghan attorney general has a poor record of prosecuting powerful and influential corrupt actors” and “DOJ concludes that the attorney general’s performance is deficient, his accomplishments are lacking, and he fails to cooperate with the U.S. Embassy on anti-corruption matters.”

The Anti-Corruption Justice Center, established in 2016 by President Ashraf Ghani, is described by DOJ as lacking a mission and riven by “frets, stews over slights, snipes at other colleagues, and has a perpetual sense of entitlement.”

Despite spending more than $1.5 million a day to kill the opium trade, poppy cultivation is now four times what it was in 2002.

Civilian casualties have risen. The United National Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, UNAMA, reported that between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30, this year, there were 8,500 civilian casualties, including 2,798 killed. That’s the highest since 2014. Many of those casualties, 649 according to UNAMA data, were due to pro-government airstrikes, a 39 percent increase over those reported in 2017.

And the financial cost of all this abject failure? The report reads, “The United States has appropriated approximately $132.07 billion for reconstruction and related actives in Afghanistan.” That includes $4.93 billion appropriated through the Defense Appropriations Act, 2019 toward reconstruction. That’s the money allocated merely for reconstruction, a fraction of the total spent on the war which was estimated by the Pentagon in 2018 to be $45 billion per year.

It is well past time for Washington to reconsider its policy of throwing money at Afghanistan in the far-fetched hope that a few more billions will buy peace and, even more unlikely, democracy. We should limit our role there to keeping an eye on mortal enemies such as al Qaeda and the Islamic State, and using overwhelming force to eradicate terrorist footholds. Dreams of building a stable and peaceful state should be abandoned as fantasy.

Category: US-NATO - Views: 710