In We Meant Well I chronicle an almost endless list of reconstruction projects that failed, either due to corruption, stupidity or both. In Iraq we spent millions to pave roads from nowhere to nowhere (waste), or to pave roads that did not exist (corruption), or in one instance I wrote about, pave a road that ended up making it easier for insurgents to shift fighters around and thus had to be unpaved at our own expense (both).
The Miami Herald features a story about failed road work as part of the US’ efforts to reconstruct Afghanistan. The tale could easily be another chapter in We Meant Well, except that the loss of money is in the millions and climbing, the setting is Afghanistan and not Iraq, and that it shows no one learned anything from the debacle in Iraq.
The Herald writes:
From 2008 to 2010, the U.S. government paid $4 million to RWA, a consortium of three Afghan contractors – only to see it pave less than two-thirds of a mile on a road that’s supposed to stretch 17.5 miles. The contractors said the area had become too violent to work in, but U.S. and Afghan provincial officials think that two of the principals absconded to New Zealand and the Netherlands, having pocketed much of the cash.
U.S. officials describe the Ghazni affair in positive terms: They saved the $6 million that remained on the contract for other projects, terminated RWA’s existing contracts and blackballed it from future work, and say they’re ready to cooperate with Afghan investigators should they decide to pursue legal action against the consortium.
But it’s also a reminder that corruption, violence and political disputes continue to plague U.S. reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan.
Last year, a McClatchy Newspapers investigation found that U.S. government funding for at least 15 large-scale Afghan programs and projects ballooned from just over $1 billion to nearly $3 billion – despite questions about their effectiveness or cost – in the headlong rush to rebuild the country and shore up its struggling government.
The whole story is worth reading, on the Herald site. If you live in Detroit, or New Orleans, or anywhere in the US with crumbling infrastructure, try pretending to be Afghani to secure US government funding. It may work!
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