U.S. Lacks Afghan Anti-Corruption Goals After $96 Billion

The U.S. doesn’t have a clear strategy to combat corruption in Afghanistan after providing $96 billion in reconstruction aid since 2002, according to a government watchdog’s audit.

The “anti-corruption activities in Afghanistan are not guided by a comprehensive U.S. strategy or related guidance that defines clear goals and objectives,” John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, wrote in a report issued today.

The U.S. plans to continue billions of dollars in aid to the country after withdrawing combat troops by the end of next year. Afghanistan tied Somalia and North Korea as the most corrupt country in the world, according to a ranking last year by Transparency International.

The U.S. State Department “never finalized the draft 2010 U.S. anti-corruption strategy” and instead uses two other documents that lack “specific goals and objectives with measurable outcomes for anti-corruption activities,” Sopko wrote in today’s report addressed to Secretary of State John Kerry and James Cunningham, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan.

Sopko has highlighted corruption in Afghan ministries in previous reports, and in August an investigation by his office led the U.S. Justice Department to freeze $63 million in American funds from the bank accounts of an Afghan trucking contractor. The inspector general’s office cited court documents showing that the contractor had defrauded the U.S. of $77 million by charging inflated prices for delivering military supplies.

Plan Abandoned

Although the U.S. embassy in Kabul prepared a draft plan in 2010 to combat graft in Afghan institutions, it was never approved by the State Department after the death that year of Richard Holbrooke, who was special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Sopko said in today’s report.

The embassy abandoned that anti-corruption plan because it used a “resource-intensive approach that is not sustainable” given U.S. plans to withdraw combat troops and hand over security responsibilities to the Afghan government, Sopko wrote.

Instead, the embassy has three working groups overseen by the deputy ambassador and an approach lacking a method of tracking progress over time, Sopko said in the report.

The State Department should draw up a comprehensive anti-corruption strategy that measures outcomes and identifies resources it needs to implement such a plan, according to the report.

To contact the reporter on this story: Gopal Ratnam in Washington at gratnam1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Walcott at jwalcott9@bloomberg.net

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