In the latest of many scandals involving U.S. aid for Afghan social issues, tens of millions of American taxpayer dollars have been wasted on programs to supposedly assist women in the Islamic country escape repression yet we have no idea if it’s made a difference because there’s no accountability or follow up.
During a two-year period from 2011 to 2013 the U.S. blew $64.8 million on 652 projects, programs and initiatives to support Afghan women though details of how the money was spent and the effectiveness of the costly experiments aren’t available, according to a federal audit. The cash flowed through three agencies—the departments of Defense and State and the famously corrupt U.S. Agency for international Development (USAID)—and it marked the latest of many allocations for the same cause. In fact, the audit, conducted by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), discloses that the agencies spent an “additional $850.5 million on 17 projects, but couldn’t identify the specific amount of funds within the projects that directly supported Afghan women.”
It’s as if Uncle Sam is conducting massive cash giveaways without having to answer to anyone. The watchdog even spells this out in its report. “This lack of accountability is primarily due to the fact that none of the three agencies has effective mechanisms for tracking the funding associated with these projects,” the SIGAR report says. Additionally, investigators found that agency responsibility for projects and programs to benefit Afghan women was fragmented. “As a result, no single DOD or State office was able to readily identify the full extent of their department’s efforts to support Afghan women,” the report says. This could lead to “inaccurate reporting of the agencies’ efforts,” it further points out.
That’s putting it very diplomatically. If American taxpayers are doling out millions of dollars, they certainly deserve to know how the money is being spent. In this particular case the U.S. government justified allocating huge sums of money to help women and girls recover from Taliban rule that denied them access to education, employment and healthcare and subjected them to extreme violence if they violated the rules. Improving the lives of Afghan women and girls has been a priority for the United States since late 2001 and in fact, Congress passed the Afghan Women and Relief Act authorizing the president to provide educational and healthcare assistance for women and children living in Afghanistan and as refugees in neighboring countries. In 2012 the U.S. Embassy in Kabul created the U.S. Embassy Kabul Gender Strategy to address the needs of Afghan women in mission policies and programming.
It’s a noble cause that’s received an astounding $627 million from Congress, the report reveals, but the fact remains that no one knows how the money is being spent or if it has made a difference. That’s downright insane and, of course, enraging for the hard-working citizens of this country that provide the cash. SIGAR recommends that the government agencies that have gone on a spending spree involving Afghan women’s causes develop and implement mechanisms to track the number and funding of projects, programs and initiatives. This may seem like common sense to most, not something that an audit must suggest.
Fraud and corruption are rampant in the U.S. government’s Afghan reconstruction programs and Judicial Watch has been reporting it for years. Just a few weeks ago JW wrote about another scandal-plagued initiative involving the State Department blowing $18.5 million to renovate a prison in Afghanistan that remains unfinished and unused years after the U.S.-funded work began. It turns out that the State Department officer overseeing the multi-million-dollar boondoggle was convicted for accepting bribes from an agency contractor.
Last fall Judicial Watch reported that, despite multiple warnings of fraud and corruption inside the Afghan Ministry of Public Health, the U.S. keeps sending hundreds of millions of dollars to support the Islamic republic’s scandal-plagued healthcare system. Months earlier JW also reported that the U.S. Army refuses to suspend Afghanistan reconstruction contracts with dozens of companies tied to Al Qaeda and the Taliban out of fear that it would violate their “due process rights.” The deals are part of the United States’ whopping $89.5 billion Afghanistan reconstruction effort.