Report criticizes US program to revive Afghanistan economy

KABUL (TCA) — A report by the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction says a program by the US Defense Department has spent $675 million USD to revive the Afghan economy, but it could not provide reliable data on where the money has gone, TOLOnews reports.

“The Department of Defense (DOD) was unable to provide reliable data showing the extent to which TFBSO projects created jobs, facilitated foreign direct investments, increased exports, or increased Afghan government revenues,” the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) said in the report titled DOD Task Force for Business and Stability Operations (TFBSO).

TFBSO’s purpose was to fund business-related projects to reduce violence by encouraging Afghans to focus on economic activity rather that fighting. However, the SIGAR report, showed the program to be inept and beyond the Defense Department’s capabilities.

“Because important documents and data were not consistently collected or retained, we could not fully assess the extent to which the $675 million obligated by TFBSO was spent effectively,” the report said.

TFBSO often had unrealistic expectations in project execution and it failed to account for local factors including politics, culture, weather, and security, SIGAR said.

The report says that TFBSO did not clearly articulate its intended mission, objectives, and strategy until more than 2.5 years after it entered Afghanistan, adding that TFBSO did not consistently coordinate its activities with other US government stakeholders in Afghanistan—namely State, USAID, and USFOR-A—leading to conflicting projects and wasted money.

The Task Force for Business and Stability Operations (TFBSO) was a temporary organization created by the Department of Defense (DOD) to support operations in Iraq.

However, in 2009, DOD redirected TFBSO to carry out economic development projects in Afghanistan. TFBSO operated in Afghanistan from 2010 through 2014. Congress appropriated approximately $823 million for TFBSO operations in Afghanistan, and according to contracts we were able to review, TFBSO obligated more than $675 million in contracts, the report said.

Of that amount, $316.3 million was obligated in direct support of projects related to agriculture, banking, oil and gas, indigenous industries, and mining. Of the remaining $359.5 million, approximately $299.8 million was obligated on indirect costs in support of TFBSO’s projects and $59.7 million on general and administrative costs.

SIGAR conducted this audit at the request of Senator Charles E. Grassley and then-Senator Kelly A. Ayotte. They sent separate letters in January 2016 requesting that SIGAR conduct a comprehensive performance audit of all TFBSO programs and activities in Afghanistan.

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Times of Central Asia