Washington Babylon — August 12, 2009, 10:47 am

Afghanistan: More American aid money headed down the drain

“The United States will not meet its goals in Afghanistan without a major increase in planned spending on development and civilian reconstruction next year, the U.S. ambassador in Kabul has told the State Department,” the Washington Post reported today:

In a cable sent to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Ambassador Karl W. Eikenberry said an additional $2.5 billion in nonmilitary spending will be needed for 2010, about 60 percent more than the amount President Obama has requested from Congress. The increase is needed “if we are to show progress in the next 14 months,” Eikenberry wrote in the cable, according to sources who have seen it.

Is this good news for Afghanistan? Probably not, but it’s certainly good news for the legions of American companies and consultants who are the primary beneficiaries of U.S. aid to Afghanistan. I have a story about this in the upcoming September issue of the magazine. As the story notes, much of the $7.9 billion in development aid allocated to Afghanistan in the past seven years never made it there because about half of that money ends up being spent on American companies.

In April, the inspector general for the United States Agency for International Development reported that dozens of internal investigations had found poor “contractor performance,” “inadequate contract oversight,” as well as outright fraud and conspiracy, resulting in seven arrests, eight indictments, and three convictions so far.

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