The Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) released four audit reports this week that shine an unfavorable light on U.S. civilian-led reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan.
The reports highlight problems with President Obama's "civilian surge", the overall lack of coordination on development and reconstruction projects in the eastern province of Nangahar, and poor oversight of contractors in Afghanistan.
The first report highlighted concerns by U.S. civilians about civilian-military integration, particularly on provincial reconstruction and district support teams.
The civilian surge was announced in December 2009, along with a military surge of 30,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, to implement a civilian-military counterinsurgency strategy.
Officials created 626 new positions as part of the uplift, to improve Afghan governance capacity, the rule of law and economic growth, according to the report.
As of last month, 418 positions had been filled, the report noted. The total exceeded 1,000 earlier this year because of the number of civilians who deployed pre-civilian surge
COIN experts say the civilian and military efforts should work "hand in glove." But the report highlights complaints by U.S. civilians who say "civilian-military integration is occurring because of personal tenacity rather than institutional planning."
In addition, the report highlighted concerns that although the goal is to sustain increased civilian staffing levels in Afghanistan beyond July 2011, "the civilian presence in the field may not be sustainable at planned levels" because of a "decreasing pool of qualified applicants."
And, as cited in previously-issued SIGAR reports, there's no effective mechanism for "best-practices" sharing from civilians who complete their one-year deployments, adding to the loss of institutional knowledge for U.S. agencies and future civilians who deploy.
The second report highlighted the overall lack of coordination on development and reconstruction projects in the Nangarhar Province, between the central Afghan government, the provincial Afghan government, the U.S. government, international donors and non-governmental organizations.
The U.S. government and other donors spent more than $100 million in development activities in Nangarhar Province in 2009, according to the report. But the "lack of coordination has resulted in an environment in which donors, NGOs and provincial directorates may duplicate one another's work."
Afghan Development Projects "Uncoordinated and Unnecessary"
Furthermore, the report concluded, "the number of donors involved in the provision of public services results in the completion of projects that are uncoordinated and unnecessary," and many projects completed with CERP funds (Commander's Emergency Response Program) "have become dilapidated and are in disrepair."
The third report said that six Afghan National Police facilities funded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Kandahar and Helmand were so poorly constructed, they are currently unusable.
According to the report, the U.S. invested $5.5 million to build the stations, and it would take an additional one million dollars to make the buildings usable. The report noted that Basirat Construction, the Afghan construction company that built the facilities, is unlikely to receive future USACE contract awards.
"What this all boils down to is oversight," said Inspector General Arnold Fields in a press release. "Without intensive ground level oversight and well defined construction metrics, we are going to continue to see shoddy construction work and the American taxpayers' investment in reconstruction in Afghanistan will be wasted," he said.
The fourth report found that the Departments of State, Defense and USAID were unable to readily report on how much money they spend on contracting for reconstruction activities in Afghanistan.
The report shows that the DOD, State and USAID obligated $18 billion to nearly 7.000 contractors between fiscal years 2007 through 2009.
"This audit is crucial because if we don't even know who we're giving money to, it is nearly impossible to conduct system wide oversight," Fields said in a statement.