- The Washington Times - Friday, September 12, 2014

The man who keeps a watchful eye on how $104 billion in Afghan reconstruction money has been spent says the Obama administration faces daunting challenges as U.S. personnel leave the country.

Special Inspector General John Sopko of the office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) told a Georgetown audience on Friday that three issues needed to be addressed to keep U.S. resources from being completely squandered.

Mr. Sopko said that projects need to be sustainable after international forces depart and aid disappears, that corruption threatens to “jeopardize every gain” U.S. forces have made, and that drug trafficking could derail all reconstruction efforts.

SIGAR’s Special Inspector General added that the U.S. has largely failed to live up to all three challenges.

• On sustainability: “Unfortunately, Afghanistan is a case study in projects and programs set up without considering sustainability.”

• On corruption: “There has been no progress made toward developing a unified anti-corruption strategy. In fact, things could get worse with the drawdown.”

• On counternarcotics: “The U.S. has already spent nearly $7.6 billion to combat the opium industry. Yet, by every conceivable metric, we’ve failed.”

Congress has already appropriated $16 billion for Afghan reconstruction projects that has not been spent. Mr. Sopko said that salvaging the gains made by U.S. forces was not an insurmountable task, but that policymakers must make oversight a “mission-critical” task.

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