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.
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."