America’s 14-year project to defeat the Taliban and build a stable Afghanistan is teetering on the brink of failure, according to a sobering report Friday by a government watchdog.
The Taliban controls more of the country than at any time since U.S. troops invaded in 2001, notes the quarterly report to Congress by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. The fragile economy is worsening. One of the few bright spots of the troubled reconstruction effort — getting more girls in school — has been tainted by allegations of fraud.
“The lack of security has made it almost impossible for many U.S. and even some Afghan officials to get out to manage and inspect U.S.-funded reconstruction projects,” wrote John Sopko, the inspector general.
The U.S. has spent more than $113 billion on Afghan reconstruction, more in constant dollars than it spend rebuilding Western Europe after World War II under the Marshall Plan. It is on track to spend billions more, but many critics view the Afghan civilian aid effort as a wasteful failure. Sopko has examined a fraction of the spending, but his audits have uncovered $17 billion in questioned costs in just three years, according to a tally by ProPublica, the investigative group.