Vote 2020 graphic
Everything you need to know about and expect during
the most important election of our lifetimes

Reconstruction In Afghanistan Cost Nearly As Much As Apollo Program

The U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan formally ended its combat mission yesterday, handing responsibility to the country's own military. The U.S. will keep 10,000 personnel there in support roles. Reconstruction efforts in the war-torn nation will also continue — but they've already cost $104 billion.

Illustration for article titled Reconstruction In Afghanistan Cost Nearly As Much As Apollo Program

Adjusted for inflation, that's more than what was spent on the Marshall Plan to rebuild European economies after World War II, and about $4 billion less than Project Apollo.

But, while the Marshall Plan and the Apollo Program accomplished their stated missions, a recent report offers a grim view of Afghanistan's future. John F. Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, identified seven high-risk areas that are "especially vulnerable to significant waste, fraud, and abuse" as the reconstruction of Afghanistan enters its next phase.


"Each of the seven risk areas is a potent threat to the reconstruction mission," Sopko said in a recent speech. "But because corruption is so pervasive and so destructive in every area of Afghan life, it leads our list of high-risk areas."

As Government Executive reports:

Topping that list is corruption and the rule of law….In a conflict zone, risks of waste, fraud and abuse multiply," Sopko added. "American taxpayer dollars and our strategic and humanitarian interests in Afghanistan are being placed at unnecessarily high levels of risk by widespread failure to track results, anticipate problems, and implement prudent countermeasures," he said. "And, unlike countries at peace, those problems can lead to lives lost and our national security objectives hindered or denied."

Sopko expressed hope that the list would also be used by the newly installed president in Kabul. But he warned that a "toxic dose of corruption could … produce a disaster in Afghanistan. A security collapse would pull down most of our hard-won gains in rule of law, health care, education, women's rights, and economic development. That would be a tragedy for the people of Afghanistan—and for the American taxpayer."

Image: RFE/RL

Share This Story

Get our newsletter



But I have mixed feelings on this.

To a large extent we (And the Soviets obviously) created the conditions in which the Taliban arose. During the 80s we assembled and supported the arms and money supply lines to the Afghan Mujahideen; we helped to create Osama Bin Laden. When the Soviets pulled out, we did nothing to help stabilize the chaos that followed in their withdrawal. Should we have been so surprised that this created a situation very similar to that of Cambodia and Khmer Rouge in 1975?

So, I would hope, by investing money to restore infrastructure destroyed after nearly 35 years of continuous warfare we will have:

  1. Ensured greater stability for future Afghan governments
  2. Won some hearts and minds among the Afghan people.

Then again, my cynicism kicks in and maybe I think it's all hopeless. Our relations with Pakistan remain very strained and they are absolutely necessary for Afghan stability. And from my reading of the news, I think we've pretty much shut them out of the process. There are still ethnic and national divisions in the country.

Sigh. I really don't know what to suggest here. Maybe another civil war is unavoidable and there will only be another 20 years of bloodshed.