The international community’s efforts to assist in rebuilding and strengthening Afghanistan are faltering. The Taliban is growing stronger every day in Afghanistan, fed by increased cash flows from the opium trade, Arab donors in the Persian Gulf, and a safe harbor in Pakistan. Reconstruction goals have also not been met, and most Afghans have not seen improvements in their daily lives.
The United States has spent approximately $100 in Afghanistan since 2002, the vast majority of which has gone to military operations. Recent reports show that corruption in Afghanistan is rampant, and 35 to 40 percent of international aid to the country is badly spent, severely undermining President Karzai’s legitimacy while, in the process, wasting millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars.
Congress has the opportunity when it debates the Iraq supplemental budget this week to renew its commitment to secure Afghanistan, restore legitimacy and weed-out corruption.. The supplemental budget is an appropriate vehicle for the Senate to establish a Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction or to expand the purview of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction to provide oversight for the reconstruction process in Afghanistan.
If created, a Special Inspector General in Afghanistan would report to Congress and ensure that the much needed assistance in Afghanistan is invested wisely to ensure that American priorities are met. These include:
- Strengthening Afghanistan’s security services and judiciary;
- Fostering economic and rural development;
- Supporting the Afghan government’s drug control strategy.
Many of the problems in Afghanistan, as in Iraq, will not be solved by military means alone. Greater investment in Afghanistan’s economy and its reconstruction is essential to creating a stable state. The United States and the international community need to commit to a well-funded and well-managed long term economic development effort.
The Afghan government should take the lead in driving its economic development, but the American oversight that a Special Inspector General would provide is essential in order to reduce corruption and restore the legitimacy of the government so that it can better take on the task of rebuilding.
The mission in Afghanistan is too important to let fail. Getting Afghanistan right is critical to preventing it from once again becoming a safe haven for terrorists. But the United States must increase its own commitment and oversight to this troubled mission in order to shore up the strength of the Afghan state.
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