Center for American Progress

Memo on New GAO Report: Afghanistan Reconstruction Impeded

Memo on New GAO Report: Afghanistan Reconstruction Impeded

To: Interested Parties
From: Robert O. Boorstin

Afghanistan's reconstruction is being undercut by ongoing violence, warlord dominance, and terrorists funded by the drug trade.

Last week, the General Accounting Office (GAO) issued a report covering activities from the fiscal year 2002 through 2003 periodm (October 2001 to September 2003.), which reveals that while the Bush Administration's rhetoric on Afghanistan has been positive, reconstruction efforts are not receiving necessary attention, priority or critical funds.

The report warns that unrest threatens "stability and national unity" and poses a long-term obstacle to peace. Taken together with other reports, the picture painted is far from rosy.

Key problems the report identifies include:

  • No comprehensive reconstruction strategy. The United States "established several mechanisms to coordinate its assistance effort in Afghanistan, but it lacked a comprehensive reconstruction strategy" and "key operational components of the strategies intended to guide the reconstruction effort were incomplete or were not drafted until the latter half of fiscal 2003."
  • Reconstruction efforts stymied by delayed funding. "Very little money was available to [the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)] for reconstruction until the second half of fiscal year 2003." USAID officials reported that "they did not know when they would receive additional funding" and as a result, "were unable to develop and plan for long-term resource-intensive reconstruction projects."
  • USAID mission in Afghanistan plagued by insufficient staff and equipment. The mission "was inadequately staffed to accomplish its management and oversight responsibilities," and "although USAID/Kabul indicated in its 2003 staffing plan that it needed 113 staff, only 39 of these positions were filled during the year." Moreover, insufficient equipment and working conditions "hindered the implementation of assistance activities."
  • Administration's plan for improvement falls short. While the U.S. government announced a new initiative, "Accelerating Success," in September 2003, "USAID did not receive the money until January/February 2004, leaving only 7 months to complete visible reconstruction projects before the September election."

For further information on the situation in Afghanistan, see the recent American Progress column, "Afghanistan: Waiting for the Bottom to Drop" and memo, "Afghanistan: New Report Sets the Record Straight." See also the Washington Post article, "Traditions, Terrorism Threaten Afghan Vote," from June 4.

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