Afghan government is more interested in checking off boxes for the international community than in actually uprooting its corruption problem.”
In this report, SIGAR lays out its oversight activities and provides an update on reconstruction efforts, including security metrics. It also includes data and information on US efforts in Afghanistan.
After several years of strong gains, the growth rate of the Afghan government’s domestic revenues has stalled, the report says.
It adds that poverty rates (less than $1 a day income) are rapidly increasing–from around 39% in 2012 to approximately 55% now, while the number of jobs available to Afghans is declining. To date, the US Congress has appropriated nearly $86.4 billion for security in Afghanistan, the report says, adding that this represents about 63% of US spending on Afghanistan reconstruction since 2002.
The quarterly report notes that despite consistent donor efforts to make the country more economically self-reliant, grants totaling $8.5 billion per year currently finance almost 75% of total public expenditures.
Meanwhile, the report says that there was an apparent decline in attacks early in 2019 during active peace negotiations, but says the second half of the year saw a return to high levels of violence.
According to the report, while there were more enemy-initiated attacks, civilian casualties nonetheless declined in late 2019.
SIGAR notes that since the conflict began in October 2001, 2,433 US troops have died in Afghanistan and more than 20,000 have been injured. But the casualties are much higher for Afghans.
On corruption, SIGAR says the country still needs to treat “the cancer of corruption” if its government is to sustain the donor support it needs to survive.
The US agency “continues to be concerned” that the “Afghan government is more interested in checking off boxes for the international community than in actually uprooting its corruption problem.”
“While the meeting of any individual benchmark is a positive development, ensuring that the broader intent of each benchmark is accomplished, as opposed to simply meeting the output demanded by the benchmark, has been a concern of international donors and Afghan civil society,” the report notes.
Another issue highlighted in this report is the Afghan government’s lack of executing arrest warrants:
As of January 2019, the Afghan Attorney General’s office told SIGAR there was a list of 6,586 people with outstanding arrest warrants from the preceding two years. In comments on a draft of the SIGAR audit, the Afghan government said its Ministry of Interior had arrested more than 1,500 people from the list. “Presumably, the remaining 5,000 people had not yet been arrested two years on…The government’s failure to take action against powerful individuals is a long-standing problem,” said the report.
The report says that the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) plans to host another aid-pledging conference for international donors this year. The agency suggests that the problem of corruption “deserves to be the central issue” at that conference.