Cornerstone of Afghan Reconstruction Effort – Roads – Is Near-Total Failure

One of the planned cornerstones of the 15+ year Afghan Reconstruction Effort was to be an extensive, nationwide network of roads.

The United States’ concept was roads would allow the Afghan economy to flourish as trade could reach throughout the country, security would be enhanced by the ability to move security forces quickly to where they were needed, and that the presence of the roads would serve as a literal symbol of the central government’s ability to extend its presence into the countryside.

The Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR) released its audit of the Department of Defense’s and USAID’s $2.8 billion investment in Afghanistan’s road infrastructure.

The project has been a near-total failure. The audit notes:

  • An Afghan Ministry of Public Works’ (MOPW) official stated 20 percent of the roads have been destroyed and the remaining 80 percent continue to deteriorate.
  • USAID estimated that unless maintained, it would cost about $8.3 billion to replace Afghanistan’s road infrastructure, and estimated that 54 percent of Afghanistan’s road infrastructure suffered from poor maintenance and required rehabilitation beyond simple repairs.
  • SIGAR inspections of 20 road segments found that 19 had road damage ranging from deep surface cracks to roads and bridges destroyed by weather or insurgents. Some 17 segments were either poorly maintained or not maintained at all.
  • MOPW officials noted that Afghanistan’s road infrastructure plays an important role in the country’s development and governance, and if the Kabul to Kandahar highway were to become impassable, the central government would collapse.
  • MOPW officials stated it will cost $100 million annually to carry out the necessary maintenance on Afghanistan’s road infrastructure. However, between 2011 and 2016, MOPW received only an average of $21.3 million annually from its American patrons.
  • According to a former U.S. official, the Afghan government would always sign the required memorandum acknowledging it had the capability to sustain a project, despite not having the capability to do so. American advisors would always accept the memorandum despite knowing the Afghans did not have the capability to do so.

BONUS: Who in America would not want to see $2.8 billion of American taxpayer money spent on roads here in the Homeland?

Peter Van Buren blew the whistle on State Department waste and mismanagement during Iraqi reconstruction in his first book, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People. His latest book is Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the #99 Percent. Reprinted from the his blog with permission.

12 thoughts on “Cornerstone of Afghan Reconstruction Effort – Roads – Is Near-Total Failure”

  1. Thanks for letting us know about the failure Peter! Otherwise, what’s your point?

    Bonus question answer: Libertarians don’t want money spent on roads. It would come from taxes.

  2. We never build the roads to last. The bed is never deep enough. They’re made so that well connected contractors can keep the money flowing their way year after year. It would only be worse in a war zone with little to no actual oversight.

    1. It sounds like we’re just too corrupt to help Afghanistan.

      We’ve been over there for years. There’s just no improvement. Americans are too dang proud, Democrats included. They can’t admit how corrupt and incompetent this empire is.

      It sounds like the empire dies when the economy collapses under welfare and warfare…

      1. This is very similar to the situation in Afghanistan. Not enough money and most of that is going to the Platinum Card club members. Soldiers need to get from one side of the country to the other, quickly (the essence of the U.S. Interstate road system as well) well, they’re scrood. Soldiers are also second or third class citizens. The rich get everything at a discount. It just seems like the following would be a pointless derailed train of thought.But it involves the Big Pigs in the military industrial complex. Same set of villains

        Here in Colorado we have a libertarian tax law called TaBOR or “taxpayers’ bill of rights”. There has to be a referendum to get funds for any projects, no matter how necessary. Roads and drainage are the two hottest spending issues on a ballot to be counted in the middle of April. The stormwater combined with sewage, well, the pipes, ditches and water treatment went untouched for 20 years. Pueblo, downstream and Fountain Creek, aka “culprit”, merges with the Arkansas River. There was raw sewage, dog droppings (lots), the unburnt fuel stripe down the middle of each lane because there’s no regulation on how much pollution your car puts into the water, mine and refinery waste and the nasties from our “clean” coal electric plant, washing straight into the water for towns and agriculture irrigation. Drainage pipes breaking and taking the freshwater drinking water pipes out with them, every time there’s a storm.

        And the roads had gone completely to crap. It came to a head when I25 was streamlined, a joint Fed/State project. Pueblo and other towns and agricultural interests downstream were suing Colorado Springs. For money we couldn’t raise because of Tabor. An unholy mess, plus the light rail/commuter bus from here to Denver, which took off a measurable amount of traffic, was council canceled. Meaning Colorado Springs dropped the efficient and excellent transport to satisfy Tabor. The same day the bridge in Minneapolis dropped into the Mississippi,a bridge on Highway 24 West right where it went under I25, collapsed.

        Again, unholy mess. There was an emergency referendum to fix the storm drains, and the street maintenance. BUT IT WAS TOO LITTLE TOO LATE. The storm drains were rigged up, the streets were patched, not repaired, then there was a forest fire, four of them actually. Lots of dead trees which weren’t holding the runoff water, not slowing the flowing, lots of water and debris, broke the Stormwater quick fix. My house, flooded 4 times and knocked the foundation askew. The biggest and most destructive force wasn’t the random surges in hydro-power, it was neglect of the infrastructure

        You hear people bitching and screaming and in some instances violence over traffic delays. We have an excellent bus system in town, each bus takes off 25-30 cars travelling the same road at the same time as Mr Surly SUV Driver, but is he happy there’s not 30 more cars crawling down the street?

        Answer: No. No he is NOT. They curse the buses and the people riding them. And Heaven forfend that an accident occurs. This is the attitude which has to be overcome every damn time there’s a spending bill. The Tabor was put into place by people in the “defense” industry and real estate developers. Mountain land isn’t suitable for large towns. For one thing not enough water most of the time and when it does come it’s a wall of hydraulic pressure coming right down the hill at a shocking speed. And they bitch about how much it costs to maintain living on the mountain.

        The Fracking companies want to put yet another industrial waste problem on us. There’s a site right across Fountain Creek from our house, looks like a sand dune but it’s not. It’s the slag heap from a gold refinery that closed 90 years ago. Nothing grows on it. There’s no frogs nor crawfish in the creek. And a real estate developer bought the poison hill, put McMansions on it and has to put a disclaimer in the sales agreements that hey, it’s toxic so don’t let your kids play in the runoff water, don’t let your pets drink it, don’t eat anything you grow in your garden. And people are still buying in.

        Why? Because Tabor temporarily limits taxes. It also limits necessary necessary maintenance.

        And the “defense” industry is so very arrogant, they park their facilities just outside the city limits, so they don’t have to pay for city services. They also encourage their employees to drive THROUGH COLORADO SPRINGS AND THE MOUNTAIN ‘self reliant’ suburbs so they’re taking up space on the roads they don’t have to pay to have them repaired, just a start. And same reason as their friends the developers, tax abatement.

        They’re getting as close to premium services and not actually paying for it. Oh, and did I mention that this behaviour is in support of the wars? This all came to a head with the Black Forest fire. Our county sheriff, Terry Maketa, has a McMansion in Black Forest. He used his position to divert fire suppression services to his property at the expense of his neighbors.

        it wasn’t enough to allow the prick to run rampant over the constitution, be as assaultive toward the “lower class” citizens as he pleased… what took him down was he screwed his fat-cat accomplices.

        This is very similar to the situation in Afghanistan. Not enough money and most of that is going to the Platinum Card club members. Soldiers need to get from one side of the country the other, quickly (the essence of the U.S. Interstate road system as well) well, they’re scrood. Soldiers are also second or third class citizens. The rich get everything at a discount.

        1. Long post Brother Jonah and so I scanned over it probably a little too quickly. So help me out on what you’re saying.

          Is it all contributible to TaBor, a litertarian experiment gone awry?
          And didn’t California mess around with the same sort of idea years ago?

          1. Yeah, it’s really the same set of villains in both scenarios (Scenarii?) taking what they want, putting nothing back. Here it’s twisted around a failed infrastructure, not that they didn’t put in the infrastructure but that they made no provision for maintenance and when pushed into a monetary corner cut the budget on those projects which actually made a calculable positive difference. Clean air and water and roads which are actually navigable, those might not get an immediate payoff, but it’s there. The construction, paramilitary, armorers, etc who make tax free either officially or just de facto bread, in large quantities, and guaranteed by the Treasury. Here as in Southern Colorado we have a tragic example of what that economic experiment can do if left unattended.

            It just seems simple, Maintenance of the infrastructure, once it’s in place, is a necessary task..
            Like you can’t do as my uncle did, with every vehicle he ever owned, apparently, put gas in one end and a key in the other and expect it to go on reliably forever.

            The tax break in Tabor mostly go to the very richest, The industries they run use up a lot of the resources, with a net negative payment schedule. Capital has a limit, it’s based on available resources, but with interest and compounded interest you have empty numbers. Like the Reichsmark in the 1920s.

            Capitalism as system of steadily increasing resources is doomed at the start.If you fund it by destroying the infrastructure or sabotaging the maintenance of that structure, especially by violent means, it’s beyond dead at birth. It’ll take down all the derivative Capital as a bonus.

            My mind builds a protective wall when confronted with people who say they’re conservatives but conserve nothing beyond their sense of entitlement.

          2. Points well made! On the bright side, Trump promised a lot of right things to the people who are hurting so bad because of greedy capitalism. They knew what their problems were and they thought that Trump would fix it all for them. Instead, he lied about practically evernthing and will deliver on nothing that will give a leg up to the ordinary joe.

            There’s progress in them being fooled that way because they will be less likely to be fooled again by someone like Trump. And they still know what they need.

            Another one like Obama but with white skin may be recognized as the answer they are looking for next time.
            Obama tried to give them what they wanted and needed by the Republican party knew it was going to be destroyed if he was able to succeed. His black skin hurt him even more than what a white man would have been dealt to suffer.

            Trump was their new and improved Obama who was going to give them the world. But he lied about everything and now they will get nothing from Trump. Why did they let themselves be fooled so thoroughly by a man who they should have recognized immediately as their worst enemy?

        2. My grandfather used to say the military is the last form of slavery.

          I’m hugely “environmentalist” on non-global warming matters.

          We used to import nuclear waste to a dump in Barnwell County, SC, upstream from population centres. SC is swampy.

          And Duke Energy is constantly not caring for how it disposes of coal waste, in NC.

          I’d be curious to hear how David Stockman (libertarian) would reply to you. He’s been saying the US does not have an infrastructure problem, that many things are wasteful.

          I love trains; they work so well in Switzerland, or did when I was there. I’m not as familiar with buses.

          I hear Colorado water is partly sent to Mexico. I dunno the watershed size. That had sounded questionable though. A high school geography teacher once told me political boundaries should be along watersheds.

          You write: “And people are still buying in.”

          That’s remarkable. In Charleston, SC, the best land is usually good land (won’t get flooded or hit by hurricanes, has a firm foundation).

          So many good jobs now are from the Defence Industry! I’d sooner work minimum wage.

          I’m amazed how well you know your local politics. You might be a little shocked if I told you how politics works where I live, haha. We’re split into identity groups here. Obviously that just means big money rules us even more easily.

          The leading US black politician from here at least promises he ensures clean water for the state. So, we do get clean water. And the older US Senators used to bring all they could back to the state. The younger politicians don’t seem to care much for the state. It’s just a career for them, or else they believe in some silly ideology. There’s no concept of state belonging.

          Thurmond, Hollings: Those were good US senators. And I realise Thurmond was on wrong side of civil rights at one time. But he still acted for the locals, not only for the whites. The newer politicians aren’t really “ours”.

          Whites in SC, even the more racial ones, have frequently tried to help blacks. So, the state-orientation was often positive. There’s a lot of odd pride in the South – or there is among the more native blacks and whites. SC is increasingly becoming just one more cog in the machine, ruled by big money and careerists.

          1. Yeah, the Duke family as in David Duke who gets most of the popular press. They’d probably be involved in the proposed for a decade now the mountaintop removal aka strip mine of a sacred mountain in Tennessee at Chattanooga. I can write both those names in Cherokee syllables, it was our stomping grounds for at least 3000 years. And I’ve never been there. There’s a bit about the small mouth bass males taking on female charactistics, down stream from the coal mines and chicken factories. It ain’t the way people used to raise chickens. You’d think that fish flip-flop gender wise would wake them up.

            Our eastern lands are in North Carolina,

            The strip mines are never brought back, I’ve noticed that. I recall the song Dolly Parton covered about Muellenburg county “down on the Greene River where paradise lay
            Well, I’m sorry my child but you’re too late in askin’

            Mr Peabody’s coal train done hauled it away”

            The governor of Tennessee at the time said they couldn’t find any descendants of the original owners and so the state gave the land to the coal outfit.

            I thought, Damn, they can’t find Cherokee in Tennessee? My wife’s father was born in Rogersville and is full blood. And the Cherokee Giduwee government has offices in Chattanooga. What did they do, look the other way when they passed that, “cherokee? we don’t see no cherokee..”
            It turned out to be Jackson and Polk land grants.

            Yeah, the highest point in the contiguous states is about 8 miles from here, Pikes Peak. From Pagosa Springs is the headwaters for the Rio Grande, and the Colorado goes west, more or less, water only goes one direction, down… all the way to California. The Platte flows from Aspen, Vail, Buena Vista through Denver and into the Missouri thence the Mississippi. It’s pretty trashed too.

            The Cherokee word for land is A ma ah ye tli which means Here between the water. And boy howdy, we used the waterways all over the place, even up here because the river “road” is so connected. Stone age rich because we knew where to score the good stuff, like obsidian from the Yucatan. It was that well connected.

            The water is the soul of all the people. some don’t realize it. There was and still is a pipeline oil spill upriver from Standing Rock. Since December. 4 months and it’s just been revealed, after the Lakota claims were rejected by the courts, that about 4 million pounds of oil , 530,000 gallons at 8 pounds per gallon… spilled. The rat-bastards hid the true scope of it. The earlier reports were about a third of that.. OOPS, something that would vindicate and validate the Tribal claims of the damage and danger from DAPL. conveniently revealed in it’s entirety after the court case.

          2. Thor Heyerdahl was obsessed with the idea of whites traveling to the Americas and then their descendants (mixed descent?) to Easter Island. (Polynesians also reached Easter Island.) His famous Kon Tiki book is part of that, Ra Expeditions the other part.

            I don’t claim Heyerdahl’s theory is correct.

            If you can tolerate that bias of his, and in some ways he’s, ah, global minded, you might enjoy Ra Expeditions book.

            Heyerdahl built a reed ship using techniques from Amerindians in South America. His first attempt, Ra I, failed if I recall correctly; but the second attempt worked, after a design change. I think that’s bc the tech from present-day Africans wasn’t complete, but the tech from present day South Americans was complete, did work.

            Anyway, he liked saying how the water connects people as much as divides.

            Lots of examples like that, but it’s neat the idea that crossing the ocean was possible and even easy on technology from thousands of years ago. He crossed using no modern tech cheats.

            Regarding Duke, whites (esp Anglos) prospered from the Enlightenment, science, classical liberalism, Cromwell, looting of the monasteries, and so forth.

            As a result, we’ve become impious and are being destroyed for it. We’re like the Atlanteans in Plato’s Atlantis myth fragment.

            Also, we lost heritage after 1066, when the Normans invaded, took charge. Even today, the English can’t say what their heritage is. Their heritage is to be “modern”, which is very sad. Tolkien wrote Lord of the Rings (which relied on Silmarillion) in part to give the English a mythology. All they have otherwise is bits like Beowulf.

            One of the worst consequences of the MidEast wars is the damage to archaeological heritage and traditional communities there.

            If it makes you feel better, everything relating to British (including Celtic) heritage will likely be similarly destroyed. We Brits are getting what we deserve for our impiety haha.

          3. Sounds to me like far too much inbreeding going on in the US south. Get out of there and meet some new people, for you children’s and grandchildren’s sake.

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