The litany of waste in Afghanistan
Inside the Special Inspector General’s Report on Afghanistan are examples of how the U.S, government wasted hundreds of millions of dollars on equipment, building projects, and policies.
Bloomberg gathered a representative sample. It makes for infuriating reading, including the U.S. effort to extend the war on drugs to the Afghan countryside:
Afghanistan has long been the world’s top producer of opium poppies. Besides its human toll, the Afghan drug trade was seen as undermining reconstruction and security goals by financing insurgent groups, fueling government corruption and eroding state legitimacy.
Over a 15-year period, the U.S. spent about $8.6 billion on Afghan counternarcotics efforts. Still, by 2017, poppy cultivation and opium production reached record highs and “drug production and trafficking remain entrenched,” Sigar wrote.
It remains so entrenched that the Taliban’s biggest source of income is – still – from taxes it levies on the cultivation and sale of “poppy-based drugs [including heroin]” and a newer source: methamphetamine.
The war on drugs continues to be a massive failure, no matter where it’s waged.
But that’s paltry compared the cost of arming and training the Afghan forces:
The U.S. spent about $83 billion over nearly 20 years trying to stand up a force that could fight the Taliban and guarantee Afghanistan’s stability. But the Taliban rebuilt strength and the Afghan military collapsed in weeks as the U.S. pulled out. Even U.S. military leaders seemed stunned by the militants’ advance.
“There are not reports that I am aware of that predicted a security force of 300,000 would evaporate in 11 days,” General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Wednesday.
The U.S. shipped out hundreds of tons of equipment, but as they closed in on Kabul, Taliban fighters seized American-provided planes, helicopters, weapons and ammunition meant for the Afghan military.
Some of that equipment will be used, some will rot, and some will be sold for hard cash. Regardless of where it ends up, you paid for it, America. With borrowed money.