By several key measures, the waste and corruption that has plagued the Afghanistan reconstruction effort for the past 13 years is as bad as it’s ever been.
America’s longest war comes to its official end on Dec. 31, but among many members of Congress—ultimately charged with oversight of the $104 billion in U.S. taxpayer money dedicated to Afghanistan’s reconstruction since 2001—political appetite has waned, especially amid a contentious midterm election and continuing budget cuts.
The U.S. will leave roughly 9,800 U.S. troops, along with about 2,700 NATO forces, for a train, advise and assist mission. But the reconstruction mission in Afghanistan is far from over—of the more than $104 billion slated for reconstruction, some $14.5 billion still awaits disbursement over the next several years, according to the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction’s quarterly report to Congress released Thursday.
“Just because the troops are leaving, that doesn’t mean that reconstruction is over,” Special Inspector General John Sopko told Defense One. “Now more than ever you really need to oversight over there … otherwise, you’re just going to be pouring money in and not knowing what happens to it.”
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When Congress returns to Washington, D.C., on Nov. 12, it will have to decide whether to pass another stop-gap measure and simply extend the level of funding, or, more likely, tuck all of the appropriations bills—including the Overseas Contingency Operation’s budget request, which funds the war in Afghanistan—into a giant, $1 trillion-plus omnibus bill to fund the government through the fiscal year until the end of next September.