Watchdog: More than 2,000 people have been killed rebuilding Afghanistan

Watchdog: More than 2,000 people have been killed rebuilding Afghanistan
© Getty Images

More than 2,000 people have been killed in attacks on projects to rebuild Afghanistan, a government watchdog said Tuesday.

In what it described as the first official accounting of the human cost of reconstruction activities, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction (SIGAR) said 2,214 people have been killed, 2,921 have been wounded and 1,182 have been kidnapped or gone missing while doing such activities from April 2002 through December 2018.

“For years, SIGAR has spent considerable effort to track the financial costs of reconstruction and stabilization activities in Afghanistan,” Special Inspector General John Sopko wrote in an introduction to the report. “However, little effort has been made up to now to track the human costs – the number of people killed, wounded, or kidnapped – to accomplish these activities. This has left policy makers with an incomplete picture of the true cost of our efforts in Afghanistan.”


The figures compiled by SIGAR for its latest “special projects” report do not include casualties from combat or counterterrorism missions, casualties that were caused by accidents during the reconstruction projects or enemy casualties.

The report defines reconstruction as U.S. assistance to Afghanistan other than combat operations, including activities such as building roads, dams and power lines, demining, conducting election activities and carrying out counter-narcotic missions.

The report found that at least 284 Americans were killed during reconstruction or stabilization missions, broken down into 216 service members and 68 civilians. Another 245 U.S. service members and 76 civilians were wounded.

For Afghans, 1,578 were killed, 2,246 were wounded and 1,004 kidnapped.

Road construction was the most dangerous reconstruction activity, accounting for 30 percent of all casualties, according to the report. It was also the most deadly specifically for Afghans, with 540 killed during such projects. 


“Indeed, the deadliest two casualty-producing events related to reconstruction that we found were attacks in 2011 on a U.S.-funded road construction contractor compound that killed 35 and wounded 20 Afghans, and a suicide bomber on a [U.S. Army Corps of Engineers] awarded road construction project that left 28 members of a construction crew dead and 35 wounded,” the report said.

The bulk of the casualties found by SIGAR happened during the height of reconstruction activities from 2008 to 2011, according to the report.

“While considerable effort is made to track the amount of U.S. dollars spent, this review shows that we do not adequately capture the human cost of conducting reconstruction and stabilization projects while combat operations are still ongoing, especially third country nationals and Afghans,” the report concludes. “Unless the U.S. Government considers the human costs, the true costs of reconstruction and stabilization efforts in Afghanistan are not accurately captured.”