By Mick Krever, CNN
Despite spending $10 billion in reconstruction money fighting narcotics in Afghanistan, the U.S. has “failed,” the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction, John Sopko, told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Monday.
“If you look at production, if you look at cultivation, if you look at breaking the tie between the drug culture, the drug production, and the insurgency – if you look at all three of those indicators, we failed.”
Sopko is behind a damning new report alleging that corruption and incompetence in Afghanistan is putting a billion dollars in government assistance at risk.
Of the 16 Afghan ministries that the Inspector General examined, not a single one could be counted on to properly secure funds, the report says.
He alleged that of the litany of fixes to the aid program that the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) proposed, 90% were ignored.
Indeed, he said, in Afghanistan’s case USAID waved most of its normal good governance requirements for aid.
“Our fear is that this money is at risk because of the waiver of their requirements.”
“We’re not saying cut off assistance. We’re not saying cut off direct assistance. We actually think that’s a good program,” Sopko said. “But just do it smartly.”
Jen Psaki, spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department, hit back at the report last Thursday, saying that it “suggests that we should attempt to fix every problem in each ministry before we set up programs regardless of whether the deficiencies in question have any bearing on the program we envision.”
Sopko said that he and has his team “totally disagree.”
They are encouraging “very simple recommendations,” he said. “Basic accounting principles: paying people not in cash, but paying them by check.”
Aid groups, he told Amanpour, claim education and health as two success stories in Afghan aid.
“Obviously there have been successes,” he said. “But we’ve spent so much money there, you would assume there were successes.”
“We’ve spent more money on reconstruction in Afghanistan – over a hundred billion dollars – than we have spent for any other single country in the history of our republic.”
The concern when it comes particularly to narcotics, he said, is that the “criminal enterprise” operating in opposition to the Afghan government will grow too powerful.
“Those people don’t care about women’s rights, they don’t care about education, they don’t care about healthcare,” he said. “They care about making a profit.”
“If we don’t do something about them, if that isn’t a priority as we go forward, we could be risking every success that we’ve had over the last 12 years.”