The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

SIGAR: U.S. Facilitated Afghan Corruption, Reacted Slowly

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact blog@cagw.org.


The first in a series of “lessons learned” reports released in September 2016 by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) John Sopko has indicated that the U.S. introduced billions of dollars of aid into a corrupt system, sometimes benefiting militia members and warlords.  

According to the report, in some instances, U.S. aid contributed to the very problems it was attempting to alleviate:  “Corruption undermined the U.S. mission in Afghanistan by fueling grievances against the Afghan government and channeling material support to the insurgency…The United States contributed to the growth of corruption by injecting tens of billions of dollars into the Afghan economy, using flawed oversight and contracting practices, and partnering with malign powerbrokers.”

Further, the U.S. did not react quickly enough to identify the manners in which corruption in Afghanistan undermined its mission and how it was contributing to the problem.

Previous findings by the SIGAR have been well publicized, including a $43 million gas station that should have cost approximately $500,000; $34 million spent on Camp Leatherneck, which was never used; and $5.4 million spent on unworkable incinerators at Forward Operating Base Sharana, which left service members to burn waste and other noxious materials in open-air pits, leading to illness.

In a September 14, 2016 address before the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, SIGAR Sopko cited the importance of the lessons learned from the Afghan conflict:  “Considering that more than 2,300 Americans have died in Afghanistan and that Congress has appropriated nearly $115 billion for Afghanistan reconstruction – a number that does not include [the estimated $680 billion] spent on U.S. military operations there – it would be an absolute dereliction of duty not to try to extract lessons from 15 years of struggle.”

A series of 11 recommendations by the SIGAR for avoiding similar issues in the future included treating anti-corruption efforts as a national security priority and more thoroughly vetting contractors operating in war zones.

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