Highlights from the 2011 SIGAR Report

by Joshua Foust on 1/31/2011

Pop the champagne: the January 30, 2011 Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction report is out (pdf)! Here are some highlights:

  • CSTC-A gets a good dinging for making really pretty plans for the ANSF but not developing a means to implement them (pg. 8). CSTC-A is out of compliance with GAO regulations for planning and developing long-term capital projects, and its plans do not meet current ANSF operational requirements.
  • “SIGAR found that portions of the plan were out of date, and most ANSF facilities plans were not completed… it did not address other elements, such as identifying how current ANSF facilities meet Afghan security objectives, identifying gaps in current facilities’ ability to meet security objectives, and evaluating how planned facilities will help to eliminate those gaps” (pg. 8)
  • Good news on the CERP front: SIGAR claims U.S. Forces Afghanistan revamped its CERP monitoring regime, and now exercises better control over $190 million in CERP money.
  • Bad news on the CERP front: SIGAR found 27 CERP projects in Laghman province, worth a combined $49 million, were “either at risk or have questionable outcomes” (pg. 9). Most of that at-risk money was used for road construction, for which the CERP program provided no maintenance plan. (See Registan.net’s extensive coverage of the campaign to pave Afghanistan’s roads here.)
  • “USFOR-A lacks a coordinated, results-oriented approach to determine whether CERP projects have achieved their goals, are being used as intended, and are being sustained” (pg. 10)
  • There is a section on removing unexploded ordinance (pg. 64). There is no section on burning entire villages to the ground. Hrm.
  • Prison reform is badly needed: 32 of 34 provinces have more than 100% occupancy in their prisons (and only Nuristan has less than 75% occupancy, with only 13% of its cells filled). 12 provinces have between 100% and 300% occupancy, including Kabul; 16 provinces have between 300% and 600% occupancy, including Kapisa; and 4 provinces have between 600% and 1000% occupancy rates in their prisons, including Takhar (pg. 83)
  • The section on IDPs (pg. 82 and 84) is embarrassingly short. We learn UNDP is well-funded, a lot of Afghans have returned home, and there is a slush fund to try to help the millions of returnees and those displaced by fighting, and there are a lot of challenges in absorbing them. There is no sense of how many IDPs there are, where they concentrate (aside from “areas with the most perilous security”), or what can be done about them. Given the U.S.’s role in creating IDPs and by and large refusing to help them, this is absolutely shameful.
  • Afghanistan’s GDP continues to soar at an astronomical rate (pg. 87). A big chunk of this growth was donor-funded Afghan government spending, with the lion’s share coming from the U.S. Unsurprisingly, the services sector accounts for most of the growth; the industrial sector is shriveling into nothing, and most of Afghanistan’s agricultural output is partially or entirely subsidized by the international community. There’s also a little thing with the Kabul Bank, which looks set to lose $900 million this year.
  • There was no mention of inequality, or where the monetary gains from this economic growth are concentrated or distributed. One can assume this is not a rising tide raising all boats in light of AREU’s new report on how livelihoods are increasingly stressed (pdf) in most rural areas of the country.

I’m sure there’s more to note in there, but you get the point. There are spots of good news, to be sure: Afghanistan is not an unending pit of misery and pessimism. But the failures and shortcomings we have introduced there can seem overwhelming at times. Interestingly, two agencies who spend a great deal of money in Afghanistan are very visibly absent from the SIGAR report: JSOC and the CIA. This is for understandable reasons, as both have black budgets and don’t report their activities publicly. But still, given how high-profile some attacks on the CIA have been, and how visible JSOC screwups during night raids have been, I’m curious whether and how those two agencies can be audited and held accountable. I don’t know the answer to that.

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This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from Registan.net. His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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