Despite the statements of the US President D. Trump on the need for an early withdrawal of the US military from Afghanistan, the interest of the Pentagon, the CIA, and the industrial complex in maintaining a military presence in this country is obvious. We are talking about the use of American financial aid flows to Afghanistan for selfish purposes.
For almost two decades of the Afghan campaign and the presence of the NATO and US contingent, Washington formally allocated large-scale funds not only for security assistance, but also for the civil reconstruction and development of this country.
Since 2001, approximately $130 billion was sent to Afghanistan. However, not all the money reached the country in need.
A significant part of the “aid” remained in the United States in the form of kickbacks, as evidenced, in particular, by the numerous reports of the US Inspector General for the Reconstruction of Afghanistan, J.Sopko. This is also confirmed by an article about US corruption in Afghanistan on the Turkish “Aydinlik”.
As a result, corruption schemes for appropriating funds allocated to Afghanistan by the Americans themselves only worsened the already difficult economic situation in the country, which is trying to recover from military and political turmoil.
The question arises as to how those involved in the contract manage to retain a significant share of all tranches. The fact is that for the distribution of financial assistance to Afghanistan, there is a multi-level system of contracts, with the participation of American contractors and subcontractors.
To assign financial aid to Afghanistan, first of all, USAID is used, through which corrupt officials take about 50% of financial flows. For example, in the case of the program for the advancement of women in Badakhshan and Khost provinces, the share of appropriated funds reached 90-95%.
As a standard scheme, USAID transfers funds for the project to an Afghan agency that justifies its deliberately inflated cost to the local Ministry of Finance. After the contract is cashed out, half of this amount is given to USAID-related individuals. Grants from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund are probably used in the same way, but in smaller amounts due to the greater number of witnesses in international organizations.
The very scale of American financial assistance, the feasibility of which is ambiguously assessed within the United States, also raises questions. In a report to the US Congress in February 2020, the above-mentioned J.Sopko noted that the amount of aid allocated significantly exceeds the capabilities of the Afghan economy.
According to the Inspector General, the amount of funds should be from 15 to 45% of the country’s GDP, while in 2007 and 2010, US grants to Afghanistan amounted to more than 100% of Afghanistan’s GDP. Obviously, such spending is not effective, but creates opportunities for plunder. At the same time, attempts by American politicians to reduce spending on Afghanistan are met with resistance from the military, who are interested in maintaining a significant source of income, as well as contractors involved in this area.
On March 23, 2020, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced a $1 billion reduction in aid to Kabul due to the inability of two presidential contenders (A. Ghani and A. Abdul) to agree on power-sharing over highly questionable election dates. However, there is no confirmation that Washington is fulfilling the promises of the head of the Department of State. Recently, Democrat Senators even asked US Secretary of Defense M. Esper to report on cost reduction.
However, the report was not provided. Apparently, the Pentagon leaves this issue open, and the military clearly does not want to cut aid by reducing its articles.
The American defense industry has a special interest in the funds allocated to Afghanistan. Purchases and deliveries of goods to US and NATO contingents, as well as to Afghan security forces, are often carried out without regard to economic expediency and at inflated prices that are favorable to American manufacturers.
So, instead of building a factory in Afghanistan that would produce cartridges for M-4 and M-16 rifles at 12 cents apiece, Washington continues to buy cartridges from its suppliers for the needs of the Afghan security forces at the price of 57 cents apiece. In addition, the US military refused Russian kerosene at 94 cents per litre, buying it in Greece at $1.4 per litre. In order to maintain control, the United States provides financial assistance to the Afghan security forces through its own fund, not international structures.
American contractors on civil projects use the same principle with overstating the real cost of goods and services, including those supplied through USAID. For example, recently, not without their participation, the Ministry of Health of Afghanistan sold about 10,000 tests for coronavirus at a price of $48 each when their real cost is no more than $5.
The most “tasty” contracts are the supply of oil products and the supply of the Afghan army and the NATO contingent with weapons, military equipment and uniforms, which are lobbied by American congressmen whose wives get good positions on the boards of directors of the respective companies. At the same time, the real recipients of kickbacks are engaged in dirty work and are not “advertised”.
It is not surprising that American aid to Afghanistan, despite its astronomical size (the amount of aid exceeded the funds allocated under the Marshall Plan for the reconstruction of post-war Europe), only allows the American military and contractors involved in its distribution to enrich themselves, while in Afghanistan the result of such assistance is not felt and its effectiveness, in general, is almost zero.
Recently, the media reported on the attempt of the top leadership of Afghanistan to redirect the flow of foreign financial assistance to themselves.
In April 2020, President Ghani bypassed the Parliament and announced the reform of the Ministry of Finance and the re-subordination of a number of its departments responsible for budget issues, state duties, and customs duties to the presidential administration.
However, the Department of State criticized Ghani’s decision as “corrupt”. It is noteworthy that immediately after such comments, the Afghan President withdrew his initiative. The political dependence of Kabul on Washington plays into the hands of US corruption schemes. The Americans clearly do not want to lose control over external financial flows to Afghanistan and do not allow even their wards to distribute them.