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.