U.S. agencies have repeatedly failed to stop Afghanistan from flooding Europe with heroin over the last 14 years, and that should worry Europeans as migrants inundate the continent, a federal watchdog told a British think tank on Tuesday.
The U.S. has spent “over $8 billion on a counter-narcotics effort that has failed by every conceivable metric,” John Sopko, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, said in a speech before the London-based Royal United Services Institute.
“As Europe well knows, Afghan heroin floods the streets of European cities and Afghan refugees are estimated to make up one-third of those crossing the border, contributing to the ongoing humanitarian crisis,” Sopko said in prepared remarks. “So there should be no question about Afghanistan’s relevancy today.
“The bottom-line is that for all we have committed, lost, and achieved, Afghanistan’s problems extend far beyond its borders and we ignore them at our peril.”
Sopko, likely the most outspoken U.S. inspector general, isn’t afraid to “speak truth to power,” as he says.
He also isn’t afraid to quote Monty Python in a formal speech.
“Since 2002, Congress has appropriated nearly $110 billion for that reconstruction effort in Afghanistan,” Sopko also said on Tuesday. “To oversee that massive commitment, we do a great deal of probing and questioning and sometimes like John Cleese in Monty Python Pet Shop Sketch, I argue that ‘this reconstruction project is dead to an obstinate bureaucratic Michael Palin’ — many times repeating the same findings and conclusions to such officials.”
Sopko and his team have identified over $1 billion in possible savings through nearly 400 audits and letters in the last three years. But, federal agencies answerable to SIGAR, like the Department of State, U.S. Agency for International Development, often haven’t acted on his recommendations.
“I must remind you that just because the number of U.S. and U.K. troops in Afghanistan has gone down, does not mean our mission is ending there,” Sopko said. “Even now, 14 years on and with the U.S. military presence much diminished, nearly $12 billion more in reconstruction funds waiting the financial pipeline, appropriated but not yet spent.”
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