The report states that over that period about $55 billion have been spent on rebuilding Afghanistan, but tracking how the money was spent is extremely difficult. During the 2001-2009 period some $17.7 bn were given to 7,000 contractors. But since the three main agencies in charge of the process – the Department of Defense, the State Department and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) – do not coordinate their efforts with each other, and even then the coordination within the three agencies is very poor, it is almost impossible to say where exactly the money went.
What is even more difficult is to track spending prior to 2007, because the data available for analysis was too poor.
In an accompanying statement released on Wednesday Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Arnold Fields said, "Navigating the confusing labyrinth of government contracting is difficult, at best," and added, “If we don't even know who we're giving money to, it is nearly impossible to conduct systemwide oversight.”
In fact, there is nothing new in the report that money in Afghanistan is falling into a ‘black hole’. A similar statement was made recently by US special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Hallbrooke who talked of an "ununified" effort by the US, the UN and hundreds of other countries and aid agencies in Afghanistan.
In the recent Transparency International report released earlier this week, Afghanistan tops the list of most corrupt nations, together with Myanmar, being second only to Somali.
So, there is no wonder that the money of US taxpayers is spent in such a way that the spending cannot be tracked. But the real question is “Cui prodest?” (“To whose benefit?”).
Not going into concrete figures and names of particular contractors, it is enough to mention several houses built for the military, but unused ever since they were built. Or, the money spent on the anti-drug trafficking with an effect of drug production and drug trafficking sky-rocketing after the fall of the Taliban.
This, and not the speculation of the terrorist threat from the undefeated Taliban, makes it virtually impossible to start the withdrawal of US-led NATO coalition troops from Afghanistan in 2011, as Barack Obama has promised. And this explains why the US military are so eager to stay in Afghanistan as long as they can, despite all the military and political losses. The ‘black hole’ is turning into a ‘gold mine’.
But what seems much more dangerous is not only the way of extracting additional money from US taxpayers, but also some indications that the US and NATO feel like involving other states more closely in their activities in Afghanistan. Recently NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen expressed a hope that Russia will take a more active part in the military operation there.
Some British newspapers published their commentaries saying that this might mean a direct Russian military involvement in Afghanistan, despite the ‘Afghan syndrome’ still strong among Russians after the infamous Soviet invasion.
A close analysis of what Russia did promise to NATO shows that Russian involvement will be limited to personnel training, expanding supplies over the transit route as an alternative to the Pakistani route which is becoming more and more volatile, and probably supply of some helicopters and other equipment.
As Russia’s Ambassador to NATO Dmitry Rogozin has said, “Maybe someone would like Russia to be “cannon fodder” for Afghanistan, but I think that those people should limit their appetites. Russian soldiers will stay where they should be, that is in Russia.”
It seems that the advice ‘to limit appetites’ acquires a broader meaning in view of the Special Inspector’s audit. And it makes Russian military involvement in Afghanistan even less likely.