US wasted billions of dollars in Afghanistan: watchdog

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U.S. spending in Afghanistan included billions of dollars wasted on vehicles and buildings that were later abandoned, according to a watchdog report issued Monday.

The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) said that of $7.8 billion in spending since 2008, only $343.2 million was spent on buildings and vehicles that were “maintained in good condition” and only $1.2 billion went to vehicles and buildings that were put to their intended use.

In a statement, Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.), chairman of the House Oversight Committee’s Subcommittee on National Security, said the report indicated “serious gaps” in U.S. spending strategies in Afghanistan.

“While I believe that targeted humanitarian relief and construction assistance for Afghanistan was and is warranted, this SIGAR Report exposes serious gaps in planning and contract execution and provides guidance on how U.S.-taxpayer resources must be more wisely and carefully allocated to ensure they do not go to waste,” Lynch said.

The report comes amid widespread public weariness with the war, America’s longest conflict. Former President Trump entered into a peace deal with Taliban forces under which U.S. troops would withdraw from the nation by May 1 if the insurgents uphold certain counterterrorism commitments. President Biden is still reviewing the deal.

Afghan officials and the Taliban have held on-and-off talks in Qatar after the militant group spent years refusing to acknowledge the Afghan government’s legitimacy.

Analyst Bill Roggio of the Long War Journal told The Associated Press the waste is due to a combination of factors, including local corruption, Taliban attacks and what he said was a U.S. strategy of pumping money into ventures without maintaining them in the long term.

“It is one thing to build a clinic and school, it is another to operate, maintain, and in many cases defend this infrastructure from Taliban attacks,” Roggio told the AP. “Additionally, the West has wildly underestimated the impact of Afghan corruption and in many cases incompetence. It was always a recipe for failure.”

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