A US government watchdog has issued a scathing report on America’s efforts in Afghanistan.
The report was issued amid the chaotic scenes in the country, which has seen the government collapse and the Taliban sweep back into power.
The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan (SIGAR) recapped the “many failures” of the reconstruction efforts in the country over the past two decades.
“Twenty years later, much has improved, and much has not,” the report released on Tuesday stated.
“If the goal was to rebuild and leave behind a country that can sustain itself and pose little threat to US national security interests, the overall picture is bleak.”
The US has spent nearly $1 trillion in the 20 years since it entered the country in the wake of the 9/11 attacks in search for Osama bin Laden.
“When you look at how much we spent and what we got for it, it’s mind boggling,” a former senior Defense Department official told SIGAR.
The report also says that since 2001, 2443 US troops have died in the country, in addition to 1,144 allied troops, at least 66,000 Afghan troops and more than 48,000 Afghan civilians.
“The extraordinary costs were meant to serve a purpose — though the definition of that purpose evolved over time,” SIGAR’s report said.
The report noted that its analysis of US activities in the country “has revealed a troubled reconstruction effort that has yielded some success but has also been marked by too many failures.”
Special Inspector General John Sopko wrote in a letter included with the report that “bright spots” included an increase in life expectancy in Afghanistan, and increase in literacy rates and per capita GDP.
He also noted that child mortality rates had decreased, while casting doubt on whether these are sustainable in the long term.
“While there have been several areas of improvement — most notably in the areas of health care, maternal health, and education — progress has been elusive and the prospects for sustaining this progress are dubious,” the report said.
“The US government has been often overwhelmed by the magnitude of rebuilding a country that, at the time of the US invasion, had already seen two decades of Soviet occupation, civil war, and Taliban brutality.”
The watchdog also criticised the US government for focusing on short-term wins, rather than long-term solutions.
“When none of that worked, the US government developed yet another short-term goal: withdrawing all troops almost immediately, even though it risked depriving the continuing reconstruction mission of the personnel needed to oversee security assistance,” the report added.
The report also states that the US government never appreciated the sheer scale of corruption that existed in the country.
“The United States failed to grasp the degree to which American largesse was captured by Afghan elites — even in the face of strong evidence that this was happening,” the report said.
And it added: “US programs empowered malign actors and exacerbated preexisting inequities, undermining the legitimacy of the Afghan government they were intended to bolster.”
It also stated that Afghan “allies” would “exploit US agencies for financial gain and share a portion of the proceeds with insurgents, who were paid to refrain from attacking convoys and project sites.”