U.S. diplomatic cables revealed Afghan vice president flew to Dubai with £ 38m ($ 51m) in cash
[Afghanistan under Taliban Rule: Posters of women in a Kabul saloon sprayed over with white color after Taliban takeover of the city.]
New Delhi: A series of official reports, many of which were removed from US government sites last week, ostensibly due to “lingering security concerns,” showed how a corrupt elite in Afghanistan was running the government for its own personal gain while committing crimes. crimes with impunity, alienating ordinary people and pushing many arms of insurgency, the Daily Mail reported.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) may have prevented the last tranche of aid of 330 million pounds (449 million dollars) from falling into their hands, but how much have they already pocketed?
For the waste of taxpayer money was astonishing, with “ghost” schools and military forces, anti-narcotics efforts backfiring, shady construction and fuel deals siphoning billions, and silver and gold smuggled through kabul airport.
U.S. diplomatic cables revealed that an Afghan vice president flew to Dubai with 38 million pounds ($ 51 million) in cash, and that drug traffickers and corrupt officials were transferring 170 million pounds (231 million) a week out of a country where average incomes were just 430 pounds ($ 585) a year, according to the report.
The plans of the West were so naive, the controls so weak, the spending so vast, and the changes in personnel and strategy so frequent, that it now serves as a textbook study on how not to build a better state and democratic, according to the report.
No wonder the British £ 6.6 billion efforts to stop the opium trade failed as poppy cultivation exploded. A governor was found with nine tons in his office – when, exceptionally, he was sacked he joined the Taliban with his 3,000 men.
In 2010, a US diplomatic cable quoted the Afghan national security adviser as saying that “corruption is not just a problem for the system of governance in Afghanistan – it is the system of governance”.
But the West’s money continued to flow as shameless politicians spoke of stability: nearly a trillion dollars spent by the United States over two decades and £ 30 billion by Britain, of which 3 , 3 billion pounds of aid, in a country of 38 million inhabitants, adds the report.
If all the international aid spent had been simply distributed among the Afghans, every citizen could have become an instant millionaire.
It shows the deadly impact of delivering aid in a fragile and conflict-torn country, as the two-decade debacle, sustained by floods of donor money sometimes larger than the whole of the world. Afghan economy, has helped transform the aid sector into a greedy, pernicious and selfish industry filled with big cats.
Unfortunately, all the warning signs have been ignored. Over a decade ago, Richard Holbrooke, U.S. special envoy to the region, said corruption was destroying efforts to create a fledgling democracy. He called it the Taliban’s “No. 1 recruiting tool”.
Now the legacy is clear, with heart-wrenching scenes of fundamentalist fanatics taking control.
No wonder President Ashraf Ghani fled last week, apparently in a helicopter stuffed with stolen money.
Yet the West has turned a blind eye not only to corruption, electoral fraud and the creation of a mafia state, but even the trafficking of boys into sexual slavery, according to the report.
The UN warned more than a decade ago that Afghan security forces “recruit boys, sometimes with sexual exploitation as a motivator.”
Yet last year, the US State Department admitted that there was still a “model of sexual slavery in government halls”, with senior officials involved in “bacha bazi” (a tradition that older wealthy men recruit boys for entertainment (including dancing for them dressed as girls and rape) while routinely avoiding prosecution.
In the first years after the 2001 invasion, budgets were relatively tight, as the focus was on quelling terrorism.
Many diagrams were absurd. Take the £ 32million spending on a single natural gas station – 140 times more than a similar station in Pakistan – to find that it costs more than the average annual income for Afghans to convert their cars to drive on natural gas. was of little use.
Christopher Kolenda, a colonel who advised three US commanders in Afghanistan, said that in 2006 the government had “self-organized into a kleptocracy”.
Politicians paid for official positions and then recouped the costs of “assistance programs, black market sales of uniforms or ammunition, drug trafficking or kidnapping.”
The big beneficiaries were the crooks in charge and the Dubai real estate market, where many hid their stolen wealth.
A Kabul bank broker used a network of bogus companies to grant fraudulent loans to ministers, civil servants and warlords, resulting in losses equivalent to one-twelfth the size of the country’s economy.
“Luxury villas for entertainment”
The bank also spent £ 117million on 35 luxury villas on Dubai’s Palm Jumeirah Island resort, which it used for entertainment.
The slow-burning disaster was mapped by the Special Inspector General for Reconstruction of Afghanistan, an unusually pugnacious official body, with quarterly reports and in-depth investigations.
The watchdog concluded that the West spent so much that it got the opposite of what was intended – for money “often escalated conflicts, allowed corruption and bolstered support for the insurgents.”
In too many cases, he added, the amount of money spent “has become the main indicator of success.”
At one point, the US Congress estimated that £ 3.3 billion – or 22% of Afghanistan’s GDP – was smuggled out of the country, two-thirds of which was earned illegally.
But government ministers and airport bosses have thwarted efforts to thwart this destructive capital flight. Four years ago there was a seminar led by the United States on how to detect fraud.
A person present said they knew of a person who was due to travel to Dubai that day with a treasure of loot, who was apprehended at Kabul airport with 92 pounds of gold bars valued at 1.5 million pounds.
“Western standards schools”
Meanwhile, dozens of schools were built to Western standards, five times the cost of those built by charities.
But cranes could not be used to install the heavy roof designs in much of the mountainous terrain, and lighter replacements sometimes collapsed during heavy winter snowfall.
The United States spent £ 800 million on these schools, but half did not have enough tables or chairs. Others, which did not exist, received funding, while some teachers falsified attendance lists.
A power plant cost 246 million pounds, 10 times more than expected, then delivered less than one percent of the planned capacity because the Afghan authorities could not afford the fuel. Even a £ 62million loan for a hotel across from the United States Embassy disappeared, leaving an empty shell.
Police advisers have watched TV shows about cops to learn more about the police while over the past decade the Pentagon has spent nearly £ 3 billion on fuel for the Afghan Defense Force, but the half was stolen. Security bases were built but never used.
Weapons have gone missing and a fleet of 403 million pound transport planes was left to rot on a runway before being scrapped for 29,550 pounds.
Gert Berthold, an accountant who helped analyze 3,000 contracts worth £ 78 billion, concluded that four out of ten dollars ended up in the pockets of corrupt officials, gangsters or insurgents.
In Helmand, the British operations center, a new police chief discovered five years ago that about half of the 26,000 security personnel assigned to the province “were not there when we asked for help” .
“Fake work photos”
An Afghan contractor, paid to cover culverts with flooding under roads to prevent bombings of military vehicles, falsified work photos submitted with his invoices – and two soldiers died because of his duplicity.
Washington has tripled the number of civilians to keep up with the influx of troops that began in 2009, spending nearly £ 1.5 billion. The average cost of each civilian deployment later turned out to be between £ 300,000 and £ 420,000.
“Expenses for food, security and villas”
Meanwhile, £ 110million has been spent over four years on food, security and villas for a management team of less than 10 people.
A frustrated US official argued that it was better to let Afghan warlords skim 20% than to hire outside experts who would spend almost all funds on overheads, salaries and profits.
Nine Italian goats from Tuscany have been airlifted into the country as part of a Pentagon’s £ 4.4million scheme to help Afghanistan’s cashmere industry and create thousands of jobs.
The blond billy goats were sent to breed with darker females to increase the yield and luxury wool quality of nine million local goats.
But several fell ill, their newly designed house was too small, the enormous costs of food made the plans unsustainable, the planned Afghan partner stepped down, and the project leader resigned in dismay.
Officials couldn’t even tell if the unfortunate goats ended up in a pot. “We don’t know,” said John Sopko, the special inspector general for the reconstruction of Afghanistan.
“It was so mismanaged.”
(Sanjeev Sharma can be contacted at [email protected])
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