USAID spent $400 million in Afghanistan “despite uncertain results”

Australian troops in Oruzgan Province, Afghanistan. Source:

The title of this audit report, the latest from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, says it all: USAID spent almost $400 million on an Afghanistan reconstruction project despite uncertain results.

The Local Governance and Community Development program, first approved in 2006,
was intended to help the Afghan government reach out into remote districts, encourage local communities to participate in development projects, and “create incentives for stability in critical border provinces.”

The program was supposed to last for three years and had a budget of no more than $150 million. However, USAID extended the program for two years past the deadline, and the total costs came close to $400 million – more than two and a half times the original amount.

The Local Governance and Community Development program wasn’t extended because it was an astonishing success. In fact, assessments by USAID and others indicated that the program produced mixed results. And an independent evaluation concluded that “although the project had pockets of success, it had not met its overarching goal of extending the legitimacy of the Afghan government.”

The program was also beset by delays and cost increases. SIGAR found that less than half of the amounts awarded to contractors by USAID went to reconstruction projects; the rest was eaten up by overhead costs.

Despite these concerns, and despite difficulty USAID encountered in determining if the program was effective or not, USAID continued to extend the program and increase its budget.

When a boondoggle like this is allowed to continue unchecked, it makes us wonder about other Afghanistan reconstruction projects. The Local Governance and Community Development program accounted for about one-third of total amount – $1.1 billion – that USAID has spent on Afghanistan reconstruction. What happened to the other $700 million? Were other aid projects just as ineffective as this one?

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2 Responses to USAID spent $400 million in Afghanistan “despite uncertain results”

  1. Hasan says:

    Define “legitamacy”.
    Afghans are tribal peoples that feel no particular need for a national gov’t. And like many “legit” gov’ts, the Afghan nat’l gov’t is as crooked as a dog’s hind leg. Graft is a terrible burden. As the effects of war are.
    It has been years since anyone I read wrote about the one to two million orphans there. Where was AID for them? Any dedicated orphanages built?

  2. Mary says:

    You raise an interesting point. I believe this comes down to the fact that the US has simply taken on too much in Afghanistan – we adopted a strategy of nation-building. Of course we would like to improve governance, eliminate graft and corruption. But can we do that by expanding the role of USAID in Afghanistan? Probably not. Better to focus on projects that are efficient, sustainable, and known to be successful.

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