British rocker Graham Parker once sang, “The movie might be new, but it's the same soundtrack.” These words have special meaning this time of the year, when Hollywood churns out big-budget remakes and sequels. Unfortunately, it may also be an apt description of U.S. reconstruction contracting in Afghanistan, according to a new article in Mother Jones.
Security and reconstruction efforts are shifting from Iraq to Afghanistan. At such a critical juncture, the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan has some helpful advice about ways to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past. Nonetheless, we seem to be on the verge of doing just that.
Arnold Fields, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), told MoJo that his office, which is supposed to keep close watch over the billions spent on reconstruction projects in the region, still lacks adequate resources to do its job effectively. Fields says SIGAR is still underfunded and understaffed. In its one year of existence, SIGAR has produced only one audit report (ironically, the audit found serious problems in the oversight of a $400 million contract to train Afghan security forces). Keep in mind that, for a variety of reasons, reconstruction in Afghanistan will be much more difficult--and therefore much more prone to fraud, waste and abuse--than in Iraq.
As bad as the waste and corruption has been in Iraq, are the cast and crew gearing up to produce an even bigger disaster epic in Afghanistan?
-- Neil Gordon