During U.S. efforts to rebuild Afghanistan through spending billions of dollars, the Kabul-Kandahar highway was relied upon as one of the most prominent indicators of success, but today, that highway is so badly trashed it can’t even be repaired.
The road is barely usable and incapable of being repaired, partly due to constant bomb craters and checkpoints, according to one Afghan official.
A new report released Saturday by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) assigns some numbers to the dire state of infrastructure.
Out of all the sections of road examined by inspectors, 95 percent were damaged, if not completely obliterated. An additional 85 percent of road sections either weren’t maintained, or were barely given any attention whatsoever.
There are several reasons for such a blatant infrastructure failure, namely government corruption and insurgents making use of the highways to terrorize people and engage in extortion.
Workers at the Afghan Ministry of Public Works (MOPW) are often hired based on nepotism and given high salaries, which eats up funds designated for actual infrastructure maintenance. Additionally, officials at MOPW are complaining they’re not receiving $100 million annually necessary for proper road upkeep.
And yet, the United States Agency of International Development said in December, 2015, that MOPW’s ability to manage its own budget is questionable, according to local sources. MOPW, in other words, has difficulty operating in a transparent and effective manner.
So far, the U.S. spends almost $3 billion on road-related projects in Afghanistan since 2001. But if the roads continue to be neglected at the current rate, full replacement will end up costing just above $8 billion.
“The MOPW’s continued inability to maintain Afghanistan’s road infrastructure threatens to waste the billions of dollars that the U.S. government has already invested in Afghanistan’s road infrastructure since 2002,” SIGAR’s report notes.
Meanwhile, the government is increasingly finding it difficult to challenge insurgents. The amount of territory controlled by the Afghan government dropped from the 65.6 percent reported in May, 2016, to 63.4 percent, as of Aug. 28, 2016.
Despite extensive U.S. military involvement over the past decade, the Taliban now has the most control of the country it’s had since 2001, and that situation does not appear to be reversing any time soon.
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