US Botched Afghan Rehabilitation

The United States’ watchdog bureau for the rehabilitation of Afghanistan issued a report recapping the list of failures that the U.S. made in the past two decades. A few days after the Taliban insurgents captured Afghanistan, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction issued a report, showing the progress that the U.S. made (or lack thereof) in rehabilitating the country. 

Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction report: the whole picture is a “bleak”

The report stated that two decades later, a lot of improvements were made, but many didn’t make any difference. They added that the whole picture is “bleak” if the goal of the U.S. is to rebuild Afghanistan, leave behind a nation that can support itself and pose little threat to the national interests of the U.S.

Meanwhile, a former senior official from the Defense Department told SIGAR that when you look at how much the U.S. spent on the Afghan war and the result of it, it is mind-boggling. The U.S. spent almost $1 trillion on Afghan war and rehabilitation efforts. This happened twenty years since the U.S. forces went to Afghanistan in response to how the Taliban housed Osama bin Laden, the 9/11 mastermind.

In addition to this, the report of SIGAR also noted that notwithstanding the intended withdrawal of the U.S. troops, the Biden administration still requested over $3 billion in supplementary funds toward reconstruction of Afghanistan in the coming years.

The U.S. spent tremendous costs to serve the Afghan reconstruction purpose that changed over time

The report from SIGAR also added that the tremendous costs the U.S. shouldered were meant to serve a purpose that eventually evolved over time. The changing purposes include crippling the Taliban, defeating Al Qaeda, ensuring terrorist groups will not build a hub in Afghanistan, and assisting in the establishment of a renewed Afghan government. 

As SIGAR mentioned in its analysis, the last purpose was proven to be difficult to attain. They also revealed a troubling rehabilitation effort that although resulted in some success, also marked a series of failures. 

In a letter included in the SIGAR report, John Sopko, the Special Inspector General, also noted that there are some “bright spots.” These bright spots include an increase in the life expectancy in Afghanistan, the lowered rate of child mortality, higher literacy rates and a higher per capita GDP. However, the question as to whether these improvements will persist is another story.

The report also mentioned that although there are multiple areas of improvement, particularly in areas of education, maternal health, and healthcare, progress had been persistently elusive; moreover, the possibility of maintaining this progress is doubtful.

The difficulty of reconstructing Afghanistan was only intensified by the defects in how the U.S. would set short-term goals and gains that would be impacted in a certain presidential term. This then resulted in a “counterproductive cycle” and new problems.