• $416 Million Afghan Program to Empower Women: No “Tangible Benefit”

    April 7, 2015

    Tags: , ,
    Posted in: Afghanistan, Embassy/State, Iraq


    The American reconstruction campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan have, and continue, to spend billions of taxpayer dollars on pointless projects seemingly designed solely to funnel money into the pockets of U.S. government contractors.

    Empowering Women

    These projects (Iraq War examples are detailed in my book We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People seem to bounce between the merely pointless, such as dams that are never completed and roads to nowhere, to the absurdly pointless.

    One ongoing theme under the absurdly pointless category has been the “empowerment of women.” In both countries, the U.S. has acted on the assumption that the women there want to throw off their hijabs and burkas and become entrepreneurs, if… only… they knew how. Leaving aside the idea that many women throughout the Middle East and beyond prefer the life they have been living for some 2000 years before the arrival of the United States, the empowerment concept has become a standard.

    However you may feel about these things, and the programs are in some part designed as “feel good” but cynical gestures to domestic American politics, the way “empowerment” is implemented is absurd. Lacking any meaningful ideas, women are “empowered” by holding endless rounds of training sessions, seminars, roundtables and hotel gatherings where Western experts are flown in laden with Powerpoint slides to preach the gospel. Over time, in my personal experience in Iraq at least, these proved so unpopular that the only way we could draw a crowd (so we could take pictures to send to our bosses) was to offer a nice, free lunch and to pay “taxi fare” far in excess of any reasonable transportation costs; bribes.

    One Army colonel I worked with was so into the goals of the program that he called these things “chick events.”

    Women’s Empowerment in Afghanistan

    So much for Iraq. How’s it going for women’s empowerment in Afghanistan?

    Not well, at least according to the latest report by the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR). Some highlights from that report include an inquiry into USAID’s Promoting Gender Equity in National Priority Programs (Promote), which has been highlighted as USAID’s largest women’s empowerment program in the world. Promote has left SIGAR with a number of “troubling concerns and questions,” to wit:

    –SIGAR is concerned that some very basic programmatic issues remain unresolved and that the Afghan women engaged in the program may be left without any tangible benefit upon completion. SIGAR is also concerned about whether USAID will be able to effectively implement, monitor, and assess the impact of Promote.

    –Many of SIGAR’s concerns echo those of Afghanistan’s First Lady. To quote Mrs. Ghani, “I do hope that we are not going to fall again into the game of contracting and sub-contracting and the routine of workshops and training sessions generating a lot of certificates on paper and little else.”

    –Promote has been awarded to three contractors: Chemonics International, Development Alternatives, Inc., and Tetra Tech, Inc. The overall value of the contracts is $416 million, of which USAID is funding $216 million and other—still unidentified—international donors are expected to fund $200 million.

    –USAID does not have any memoranda of understanding between any of the three Promote contractors and the Afghan government.

    Other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?

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  • Recent Comments

    • Bruce said...


      Ah, $lick Hilly; ‘wounded in action’ on the “Definition of ISIS : US!” Eurasian front!!

      04/7/15 12:46 PM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...


      I say cut to the chase and just start teaching these women how to deal and be cocktail hostesses at Mesopotamia Mirage- a Trump venture planned for a possible 2040 opening.

      04/7/15 12:48 PM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...


      Oh, and the Golden Poppy- a livish resort due to open in Afghanistan circa 2038 with Steve Winn guiding the project. It will rival the Crimea as a destination for Russian plutocrats.

      04/7/15 12:58 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      There’s a book in this: “We Meant Well…for the Government Contractors.”

      04/7/15 2:00 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      04/7/15 2:30 PM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...


      The new Afghan Golden Poppy casino will have a restored shot down mi-28 hung from the ceiling just over the craps table reminding the Ruskies not to go over their limit.

      04/7/15 3:23 PM | Comment Link

    • Stephen said...


      Mr. Van Buren,
      You probably don’t need to know much more about waste, fraud and money flushed down the toilet than you already know but have you read “Kill Chain” by Andrew Cockburn? I was just wondering. If that techno-junk is as bad as portrayed then the Russians have already won the war.


      04/7/15 4:13 PM | Comment Link

    • Kyzl Orda said...


      Those were the Cheney years, when powerpoint = development or democracy-forging, and we are still stuck with this stupid paradigm

      It’s very hard to promote women’s development programs in Afghanistan, when our policy establishment supported people like Gulbeddin Hekmatyar at one time. Right then, you have to ask how serious an endeavor is this going to be??

      “Oh, and the Golden Poppy- a livish resort due to open in Afghanistan circa 2038 with Steve Winn guiding the project. It will rival the Crimea as a destination for Russian plutocrats…”

      With names like ‘the Golden Poppy’ and ‘Mesopotamia Mirage’, it wasn’t clear if you were euphemistically referring to the two wars or those really are names for actual lavish resort projects?

      04/7/15 5:41 PM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...


      Just made up sarcasm. -Gotta clear out the “injuns” in that hostile territory before we can operate casinos for empire and then rehire the vanquished. Admit it! Afghan, Iraqi sure sound like they belong to hundreds of extinguished tribes in America’s Manifest Destiny march across this huge continent. Apache! Iraqi!-in Pale Face Cheney’s forked tongue mind there is no difference. It took 200 years to rid this continent of pesky injuns. Give America 200 more years and the calvary may no longer be needed in Mesopatamia

      04/7/15 6:16 PM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...


      Spelling correction- mess ‘o ptomainia. Sorry

      04/7/15 9:06 PM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...


      notice even the purposely botched ‘. A cautionary warning for America of staying out of the so called “cradle” of civilization.

      04/7/15 9:37 PM | Comment Link

    • Kyzl Orda said...


      Mess ‘o potamia Mirage and the Golden Poppy sadly are perfect. There’s some UN report out how Afghanistan is gonna break another record this year with the drug trade, which Blackwater renamed received half a billion from the DoD alone to help eradicate. Insecurity is job security, it seems

      04/8/15 3:29 AM | Comment Link

    • Kyzl Orda said...


      04/8/15 3:34 AM | Comment Link

    • STREETS OF GOLD » $416 Million Afghan Program to Empower Women: No ‘Tangible Benefit’ said...


      […] with author’s permission from his website, We Meant Well. Source: Ron Paul […]

      04/9/15 2:53 AM | Comment Link

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