Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Thursday, October 18th, 2018

“Erosion in Afghanistan Reconstruction”

The war against terrorism that was started by U.S. in Afghanistan does not seem to have generated the results that were expected. Even after spending so much in blood and money, U.S. is still faced with many issues that remain unaddressed. Major of those issues have been highlighted by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan (SIGAR). SIGAR has recently mentioned that within last 15 years, U.S. has made an investment of around $115 billion USD. Adjusted for inflation, the U.S has spent more on Afghanistan’s reconstruction than it did on the Marshall Plan to rebuild Western Europe after World War II and that reconstructing Afghanistan has been the largest expenditure to rebuild a single country in U.S. history.
Unfortunately, Afghanistan still shows a High-Risk List. SIGAR has identified eight high-risk areas that point at systemic problems faced by U.S.-funded reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan. These high-risk areas include Afghan security forces capacity and capabilities; corruption; sustainability; on-budget support; counter-narcotics; contract management; oversight and planning and strategy. 
It is important to note that it is not only the monetary support that U.S. has offered to the war against terrorism in Afghanistan. Some precious lives have also been lost in this war. According to the data by SIGAR, since 2001, 2,247 U.S. military personnel have died and more than 20,000 have been wounded in Afghanistan. However, there are still some serious challenges that Afghanistan faces regarding security. Since, most of the U.S. and international troops have withdrawn from the country, Afghan security forces have not been able to show complete confidence in facing the challenges put forward by the insurgents and resultantly many parts of the country have come under the control of Taliban and Daesh. According to SIGAR’s statement, “Despite a $70 billion U.S investment in the Afghan security forces, only 63 percent of the country’s districts are under Afghan government control or influence, which shows a reduction from the 72 percent as of November 27, 2015.”
Now with such situation in hand, there are prognostications that this year the security challenges would further increase for Afghanistan security forces, as some recent attacks in major cities of the country have already given the indications. Therefore, it is really vital that there should be serious developments as far as the capacity building of Afghan security forces are concerned. Moreover, another aspect of the problem lies in the absence of a proper security strategy to deal with the ongoing and future security challenges. Afghan leadership, in this regard, has not shown any considerable potential. Resultantly, security forces mostly react defensively instead of being proactive.
In addition to that, Afghan government as a whole is suffering from many other major issues, which are hindering it to develop an effective mechanism against the terrorists. Erosion of legitimacy of the government is a dominant one among these issues. The government has not been able to deliver services to the people; therefore, people have lost their confidence on the government, which has given rise to the issue of illegitimacy. Another major concern in this regard is the persistent corruption among the ranks of the government. As SIGAR has mentioned that corruption has eroded the legitimacy of the Afghan government, limiting its effectiveness and bolstering support for the opposing insurgency. Unless Afghan government tackles the issue of corruption, it cannot design any strategy that can prove to be effective and helpful in supporting its legitimacy.
Another key issue that has been highlighted by SIGAR is the evil of opium production. SIGAR has mentioned that despite a U.S. investment of $8.5 billion USD in counter-narcotics, Afghan opium production is at an all-time high. If such huge investment and support is not able to produce the desired results, it is very difficult to expect effective outcomes in the sectors that are not supported sufficiently. This also points at the fact that the utilization of such investment has not been supported through an efficient and honest mechanism. In fact, there is no effective institutional mechanism in Afghanistan to control the production of opium and its use. And, it is the basic reason that the opium smuggling has been fueling and funding terrorism and insurgency to a great extent.
SIGAR has also mentioned that Afghanistan is still in a position where it cannot support itself financially and functionally; therefore, it would require long-term financial assistance to survive. Unfortunately, the U.S. and international community cannot keep on supporting the country after certain point. Moreover, the changing nature of international politics and international political considerations and interests shows that it would be difficult for them to keep on assisting Afghanistan indefinitely. Therefore, it is vital for Afghanistan to start relying on its own self. Afghan authorities need to take some important and honest decisions and make determined efforts. They can at least start by being honest to their country and their people – taking a strong and united stance against insecurity and corruption.