By Adam Andrzejewski
Recently, our auditors at OpenTheBooks.com reported that Afghanistan topped the list of 170 counties receiving U.S. foreign aid. In FY2018 (the latest year available), Afghanistan received $6 billion in direct foreign aid alone.
Since 2001, total U.S. taxpayer cost of all operations likely exceeded $2 trillion, according to estimates from researchers at Brown University. It is impossible to say how much of that money has fallen into Taliban hands, but it’s significant.
Those numbers pale in comparison to the 22,000 military casualties, including approximately 2,400 fatalities suffered by American servicemen and women.
But as the Taliban continues its rampage, as Afghan security forces surrender, and as the president flees the country, it’s worth noting how many of our “investments” in Afghanistan didn’t pan out.
1. Afghan Security Forces: $82.9 billion invested into the Afghanistan Security Forces Fund since inception and $3.05 billion this year (FY2021) by the Department of Defense. Those forces surrendered or were defeated by the Taliban within days of the U.S. leaving the region.
2. Anti-Narcotics Campaign: $8.9 billion spent on counter-narcotics efforts during a 15-year period (2002-2021) with no measurable results. Afghan poppy crops soared and the UN described the country as a “narco-state.”
3. U.S. Embassy: $1.5 billion for the U.S. Embassy (security, construction and maintenance) plus $157 million for operations since 2001. Embassy officials lowered the American flag this week as the embassy was totally evacuated.
4. Respect Women Campaign: More than $800 million (and maybe billions since 2001) to encourage Taliban and other Islamist groups to respect women, including $27 million from USAID to “Promote: Women’s Rights Groups and Coalitions” and $6.7 million to prevent “Gender Based Violence.” (It is unlikely that Taliban’s treatment and abuse of women in the coming weeks will be respectful or empowering.)
5. Lost Drones: $174 million on drones that were lost in Afghanistan. The drones were part of the attempt to help the Afghan National Army (ANA) defend itself. But the ANA didn’t immediately use the drones and then lost track of them.
6. Economic Development: $105 million to a DC-based consortium for “assistance in building Afghanistan by developing enterprises.”
7. American University of Afghanistan: $94.8 million for the American University in Afghanistan, located in Kabul, which was established in 2006 with a grant from USAID, “with the idea of implementing an American higher education model.” The university is currently being dismantled by the Taliban.
8. Afghan Elections: $89 million in USAID grants to increase election participation in Afghanistan. With the Taliban in control, there will be no democratic processes.
9. Kabul Carpet Center: $9.4 million to establish a “Kabul carpet export center.” The website and market is now defunct, but the “success” of the project lives online at USAID.
10. Women Police Compound: $3.1 million to build a compound to train 100 Afghan women to be police officers. The compound, built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, had structural deficiencies and was never used.
The U.S. taxpayer was very generous with the Afghan people and provided $145 billion for reconstruction and security forces between FY2001 and June 30, 2021. This included $88.6 billion on “Security”; $36.3 billion on “Governance and Development”; $4.2 billion on “Humanitarian”; and $15.9 billion on “Agency Operations.”
How is it that everything built collapsed so quickly?
Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), July 30, 2021, Quarterly Report to Congress and Appendix.
SIGAR drone report “Afghan National Army: DOD Did Not Conduct Required Oversight or Assess the Performance and Sustainability of the $174 Million ScanEagle Unmanned Aerial System Program,” July 2020.
USAID spending, FY2020 &2021 spending in Afghanistan, 207 grants
USAID spending, FY2020 &2021 spending in Afghanistan, 3,007 contracts
SIGAR, January 30, 2021, Quarterly Report to Congress, Page 114 “Women’s Advancement.”
Congressional Research Service, “Afghanistan: Background and U.S. Policy: In Brief Updated June 11, 2021.”
Cost of Afghanistan War, Military Times, April 16, 2021
Costs of War Project $2.3 Trillion estimate of Afghan war spending