Author Topic: How U.S. dollars disappear in Afghanistan: quickly and thoroughly  (Read 90 times)

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How U.S. dollars disappear in Afghanistan: quickly and thoroughly
« on: September 08, 2006, 10:28:27 AM »
Remember when peaceful, democratic, reconstructed Afghanistan was advertised as the exemplar for the extreme makeover of Iraq? In August 2002, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was already proclaiming the new Afghanistan "a breathtaking accomplishment" and "a successful model of what could happen to Iraq." As everybody now knows, the model isn't working in Iraq. So we shouldn't be surprised to learn that it's not working in Afghanistan either.

To understand the failure -- and fraud -- of reconstruction in Afghanistan, you have to take a look at the peculiar system of U.S. aid for international development. During the past five years, the United States and many other donor nations pledged billions of dollars to Afghanistan, yet Afghans keep asking: "Where did the money go?" American taxpayers should be asking the same question.

The official answer is that donor funds are lost to Afghan corruption. But shady Afghans, accustomed to two-bit bribes, are learning about big bucks from the masters of the world.

Other answers appear in a fact-packed report issued in June 2005 by Action Aid, a widely respected nongovernmental organization headquartered in Johannesburg. The report studies development aid given by all countries worldwide and says that only part of it -- maybe 40 percent -- is real. The rest is phantom aid. That is, it never shows up in recipient countries at all.

Some of it doesn't even exist except as an accounting item, as when countries count debt relief or the construction costs of a fancy new embassy in the aid column. A lot of it never leaves home; paychecks for American "experts" under contract to USAID go directly to their U.S. banks. Much of the money is thrown away on "overpriced and ineffective technical assistance," such as those hot-shot American experts, the report said. And big chunks are tied to the donor, which means that the recipient is obliged to use the money to buy products from the donor country, even when -- especially when -- the same goods are available cheaper at home.

To no one's surprise, the United States easily outstrips other nations at most of these scams, making it second only to France as the world's biggest purveyor of phantom aid. Fully 47 percent of U.S. development aid is lavished on overpriced technical assistance. By comparison, only 4 percent of Sweden's aid budget goes to technical assistance, while Luxembourg and Ireland lay out only 2 percent.

As for tying aid to the purchase of donor-made products, Sweden and Norway don't do it at all. Neither do Ireland and the United Kingdom. But 70 percent of U.S. aid is contingent upon the recipient spending it on American stuff, including especially American-made armaments. The upshot is that 86 cents of every dollar of U.S. aid is phantom aid.

According to targets set years ago by the United Nations and agreed to by almost every country in the world, rich countries should give 0.7 percent of their national income in annual aid to poor ones. So far, only the Scandinavian countries, the Netherlands and Luxembourg (with real aid at 0.65 percent of its national income) even come close.

At the other end of the scale, the United States spends a paltry 0.02 percent of national income on real aid, which works out to an annual contribution of $8 from every citizen of the wealthiest nation in the world. (By comparison, Swedes kick in $193 per person, Norwegians $304, and the citizens of Luxembourg $357.) President Bush boasts of sending billions in aid to Afghanistan, but in fact we could do better by passing a hat.

The Bush administration often deliberately misrepresents its aid program for domestic consumption.

Last year, for example, when the president sent his wife to Kabul for a few hours of photo ops, the New York Times reported that her mission was "to promise long-term commitment from the United States to education for women and children." Speaking in Kabul, she pledged that the United States would give an additional $17.7 million to support education in Afghanistan. But that grant had been announced before; and it was not for Afghan education (or women and children) at all but for a new private, for-profit American University of Afghanistan. (How a private university comes to be supported by public tax dollars and the Army Corps of Engineers is another peculiarity of Bush aid.)

Ashraf Ghani, former finance minister of Afghanistan and president of Kabul University, complained, "You cannot support private education and ignore public education." But that's typical of American aid. Having set up a government in Afghanistan, the United States stiffs it, preferring to channel aid money to private American contractors. Increasingly privatized, U.S. aid becomes just one more mechanism for transferring tax dollars to the pockets of rich Americans.

In 2001, Andrew Natsios, then head of USAID, cited foreign aid as "a key foreign policy instrument" designed to help other countries "become better markets for U.S. exports."

To guarantee that mission, the State Department recently took over the formerly semi-autonomous aid agency. And because the aim of U.S. aid is to make the world safe for U.S. business, USAID now cuts in business from the start. It sends out requests for proposals to the short list of usual suspects and awards contracts to those bidders currently in favor. (Election time kickbacks influence the list of favorites.) Sometimes it invites only one contractor to apply, the same efficient procedure that made Halliburton so notorious and so profitable in Iraq.

The criteria for selection of contractors have little or nothing to do with conditions in the recipient country, and they are not exactly what you would call transparent.

Take, for example, the case of the Kabul-Kandahar Highway, featured on the USAID Web site as a proud accomplishment. (In five years, it's the only accomplishment in highway building in Afghanistan -- which is one better than the U.S. record building power stations, water systems, sewer systems or dams.) The highway was also featured in the Kabul Weekly newspaper in March 2005 under the headline, "Millions Wasted on Second-Rate Roads."

Afghan journalist Mirwais Harooni reported that even though other international companies had been ready to rebuild the highway for $250,000 per kilometer, the Louis Berger Group got the job at $700,000 per kilometer -- of which there are 389. Why? The standard American answer is that Americans do better work. (Though not Berger, which at the time was already years behind on another $665 million contract to build schools.)

Berger subcontracted Turkish and Indian companies to build the narrow two-lane, shoulderless highway at a final cost of about $1 million per mile; and anyone who travels it can see that it is already falling apart. (Former Minister of Planning Ramazan Bashardost complained that when it came to building roads, the Taliban did a better job.)

Now, in a move certain to tank President Hamid Karzai's approval ratings and further endanger U.S. and NATO troops in the area, the United States has pressured his government to turn this "gift of the people of the United States" into a toll road and collect $20 a month from Afghan drivers. In this way, according to U.S. experts providing highly paid technical assistance, Afghanistan can collect $30 million annually from its impoverished citizens and thereby decrease the foreign aid "burden" on the United States.

Is it any wonder that foreign aid seems to ordinary Afghans to be something only foreigners enjoy?

At one end of the infamous highway, in Kabul, Afghans disapprove of the fancy restaurants where foreigners gather -- men and women together -- to drink alcohol and carry on, and plunge half-naked into swimming pools. They object to the brothels -- 80 of them by 2005 -- that house women brought in to serve foreign men.

They complain that half the capital city lies in ruins, that many people still live in tents, that thousands can't find jobs, that children go hungry, that schools are overcrowded and hospitals dirty, that women in tattered burqas still beg in the streets and turn to prostitution, that children are kidnapped and sold into slavery or murdered for their kidneys or their eyes.

They wonder where the promised aid money went and what the puppet government can do.

Ann Jones is the author of "Kabul in Winter," a memoir of Afghanistan, where she lived for several years. A longer version of this piece appears at www. tomdispatch.com. Contact us at insight@sfchronicle.com.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2006/09/03/INGR0KRGMF1.DTL
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Re: How U.S. dollars disappear in Afghanistan: quickly and thoroughly
« Reply #1 on: September 08, 2006, 10:29:24 AM »
Force can't beat Taliban: Minister
Sep. 8, 2006. 07:27 AM
BILL SCHILLER AND BRUCE CAMPION-SMITH
IN TORONTO AND OTTAWA


With Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan locked down in one of this country's biggest battles in modern times, Ottawa's top military officials conceded yesterday the Taliban cannot be eliminated by force.

The revelations — first by Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor in an interview from Australia, and later confirmed by Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Rick Hillier in Ottawa — are certain to stun Canadians who are increasingly concerned about the rising number of Canadian casualties in Afghanistan.

Thirty-two soldiers have died since Canada deployed troops there in 2002. Sixteen have died in the past three months alone.

The comments came on a day when NATO's supreme commander, U.S. Gen. James Jones, called for reinforcements from member nations for the embattled southern region, where Canadians, Americans, Dutch and British are leading the fight.

"We cannot eliminate the Taliban," O'Connor told a Reuters reporter in Australia, "not militarily anyway. We've got to get them back to some sort of acceptable level ..."

O'Connor's candour was a clear shift from just more than three months ago when he told a Commons' committee he welcomed large-scale Taliban attacks because it gave Canadian soldiers the opportunity to kill them in large numbers.

"If they concentrate against our military then we can defeat them, and lately they have been concentrating against our militaries," he said confidently on May 30.

Reached by phone near Ottawa yesterday, Hillier told the Star he had no disagreement with his minister's statement out of Australia.

"Not at all," Hillier said. "That's never been the strategy — to defeat them militarily."

The general added, "We don't have to defeat them militarily. What we've got to do is build a country."

Hillier said the surest path to success was the actual reconstruction of Afghanistan. That was what the Taliban feared most, he said. But he also conceded Taliban forces were waging battles that were slowing the reconstruction process.

"Things are not moving as quickly as we want," Hillier said. "(There's) no question that the security situation has constrained that."

Asked whether the current battle raging on the ground, code-named Operation Medusa, was winnable, Hillier replied, "I think it is, otherwise we wouldn't be engaged in it in the manner in which we are right now."

He said Canadian and coalition forces were determined not to let the Taliban get a foothold close to Kandahar, and the coalition would "disrupt" any base the Taliban might establish.

"We're going to make sure that doesn't happen in the Panjwaii area," he said, referring to the district southwest of Kandahar city where the battle is raging.

He was sensitive to concerns, raised by critics of the mission, that combat operations can create enemies on the ground, even as NATO forces kill insurgents.

"There is always a risk when you conduct operations in any area that you're going to cause some damage or some harm and that will cause some people to become your enemy. But we take every measure possible to minimize and mitigate those kinds of risks."

He also insisted it was the Taliban who are on the offensive and that coalition forces were there to defend the Afghan people and give them "breathing space" to develop the country.

Hillier would not be drawn on whether the number of Canadian casualties was "acceptable or not."

"One soldier lost is a price that wounds all of us," he said. "We take every step to reduce the chances of those casualties," he added, calling the 2,300 soldiers in Afghanistan — and their families — "incredible Canadians."

But he also noted, "we know that the mission is high-risk at this point."

After seven days of tough fighting in Operation Medusa, commanders now say they have a large group of insurgents contained in an area of fields and villages roughly measuring 16 square kilometres.

"They're not coming out. The only way they're coming is with their hands up or lying flat ... on a stretcher," Maj. Todd Scharlach said in a telephone interview from Kandahar yesterday.

"We're going to continue to hammer at these guys until there's none of them left," said Scharlach, a top operations officer with the Canadian task force.

The Canadian-led Medusa was launched last weekend to clear the region of insurgents. It has long been a Taliban stronghold.

The operation had been planned for weeks and allied troops even dropped leaflets warning civilians to flee before the shooting started.

NATO commanders were surprised by the number of insurgents — estimated at more than 1,000 — who chose to stay and fight, despite the advance notice. U.S. Gen. Jones said in Belgium that NATO was also surprised by the intensity of the resistance and the fact the Taliban were not relying on traditional hit-and-run tactics.

Jones insisted the call for reinforcements was "not a desperate move; it is more of an insurance package."

But he emphasized in order to "contain the Taliban" it was crucial that nations who promised troops actually deliver.

Today and tomorrow, when military leaders of the 26-member NATO alliance meet in Warsaw, the leadership will press other nations for more troops, helicopters and transport aircraft.

Canada is not expected to be asked for more troops since it is already one of the mission's largest contributors, Jones told CBC Newsworld.

O'Connor told Newsworld he would "be surprised if Canada is asked to do more" in terms of contributing troops.

"We have more than met our commitment," he said.

On the ground in Afghanistan, Scharlach said, Canadian troops aren't complaining and are ready to engage the enemy.

"We want to hit these guys with our strength, which is high-tech weaponry, attack helicopters, close air support, precise artillery. If we can bullet in there, we would rather do that than put a man in there," he said.

He also said coalition forces weren't being "indiscriminate."

"We're very, very careful about making sure that we're going after Taliban and we're not hitting civilians," Scharlach said.

"The way to solve this problem is by bringing prosperity to the people of Afghanistan. If they're living a secure, enriched life under the government of Afghanistan, they're not going to want to side with the Taliban."

http://www.thestar.com/NASApp/cs/ContentServer?pagename=thestar/Layout/Article_Type1&c=Article&cid=1157665847547&call_pageid=968332188492&col=968793972154&t=TS_Home
"One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. "Which road do I take?" she asked. "Where do you want to go?" was his response. "I don't know," Alice answered. "Then," said the cat, "it doesn't matter."

- Lewis Carroll
 

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Re: How U.S. dollars disappear in Afghanistan: quickly and thoroughly
« Reply #2 on: September 08, 2006, 10:32:16 AM »

The general added, "We don't have to defeat them militarily. What we've got to do is build a country."

Hillier said the surest path to success was the actual reconstruction of Afghanistan. That was what the Taliban feared most, he said. But he also conceded Taliban forces were waging battles that were slowing the reconstruction process.

"Things are not moving as quickly as we want," Hillier said. "(There's) no question that the security situation has constrained that."



u cant win in afghanistan on just military might alone, there has to be a social/humanitarian aspect as well. They go hand in hand. Since the latter is in disarray and obviously not workin, what purpose is there to this military action. It serves no purpose without corresponding developmental work.

You cant kill the Taliban. Without Al Qaeda finances, overt Pakistani assistance, and most of their hardened experienced soldiers, these stooges still run half the country.
"One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. "Which road do I take?" she asked. "Where do you want to go?" was his response. "I don't know," Alice answered. "Then," said the cat, "it doesn't matter."

- Lewis Carroll
 

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Re: How U.S. dollars disappear in Afghanistan: quickly and thoroughly
« Reply #3 on: September 08, 2006, 10:33:03 AM »
"A top British general said the fighting in volatile southern Afghanistan was now more ferocious than in Iraq"

http://news.yahoo.com/fc/world/afghanistan
"One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. "Which road do I take?" she asked. "Where do you want to go?" was his response. "I don't know," Alice answered. "Then," said the cat, "it doesn't matter."

- Lewis Carroll
 

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Re: How U.S. dollars disappear in Afghanistan: quickly and thoroughly
« Reply #4 on: September 08, 2006, 10:45:20 AM »
Military expenditure outpaces development and reconstruction spending by 900% - the wrong priority
82.5 billion USD has been spent on military operations in Afghanistan since 2002 compared to just 7.3 billion USD on development.
Focus on poverty relief and development could have created a solid foundation on which to re-build Afghanistan. Instead, the focus on “securing” Afghanistan with aggressive military tactics has led the Afghan population to mistrust the reasons for the large international military presence in their country.
The large numbers of civilian casualties and deaths have also fuelled resentment and mistrust of the international military presence.
“We have a saying about you now: Your blood is blood, our blood is just water to you,” the Report notes a former Mujaheedin commander from Kandahar as saying



“Emergency poverty relief must now be the top priority,” said Reinert. “Only then can we talk of nation-building and reconstruction. A complete overhaul of the failed counter-narcotics strategies is urgently needed. We must try and win back the hearts and minds of the Afghan people. The Taliban are advancing north every day. This should concern us all.”


http://www.afghannews.net/index.php?action=show&type=news&id=1121
« Last Edit: September 08, 2006, 10:50:20 AM by King Tech Quadafi »
"One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. "Which road do I take?" she asked. "Where do you want to go?" was his response. "I don't know," Alice answered. "Then," said the cat, "it doesn't matter."

- Lewis Carroll
 

J Bananas

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Re: How U.S. dollars disappear in Afghanistan: quickly and thoroughly
« Reply #5 on: September 08, 2006, 10:31:06 PM »
gotta spend money to make money
 

AndrE16686

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Re: How U.S. dollars disappear in Afghanistan: quickly and thoroughly
« Reply #6 on: September 09, 2006, 12:44:25 AM »



u cant win in afghanistan on just military might alone, there has to be a social/humanitarian aspect as well.


True that.