Losing the War to Win the Peace in Afghanistan

A report to the Commission on Wartime Contracting sees waste and fraud spreading from the Euphrates valley to the Hindu Kush. From an AP report:

Waste and corruption that marred Iraq's reconstruction will be repeated in Afghanistan unless the U.S. transforms the unwieldy bureaucracy managing tens of billions of dollars in infrastructure projects, government watchdogs warned Monday.

The U.S. has devoted more than $30 billion to rebuilding Afghanistan. Yet despite the hard lessons learned in Iraq, where the U.S. has spent nearly $51 billion on reconstruction, the effort in Afghanistan is headed down the same path, the watchdogs told a new panel investigating wartime contracts.

"Before we go pouring more money in, we really need to know what we're trying to accomplish (in Afghanistan)," said Ginger Cruz, deputy special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction. "And at what point do you turn off the spigot so you're not pouring money into a black hole?"

.......Cruz, along with Stuart Bowen, the top U.S. official overseeing Iraq's reconstruction, delivered a grim report to the Commission on Wartime Contracting. Their assessment, along with testimony from Thomas Gimble of the Defense Department inspector general's office, laid out a history of poor planning, weak oversight and greed that soaked U.S. taxpayers and undermined American forces in Iraq.

......A 456-page study by Bowen's office, "Hard Lessons: The Iraq Reconstruction Experience," reviews the problems in an effort the Bush administration initially thought would cost $2.4 billion.

The U.S. government "was neither prepared for nor able to respond quickly to the ever-changing demands" of stabilizing Iraq and then rebuilding it, said Bowen. "For the last six years we have been on a steep learning curve."

Overall, the Pentagon, State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development have paid contractors more than $100 billion since 2003 for goods and services to support war operations and rebuilding projects in Iraq and Afghanistan.......

There are 154 open criminal investigations into allegations of bribery, conflicts of interest, defective products, bid rigging and theft in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait, said Gimble, the Pentagon's principal deputy inspector general.

Link via Rational Review.

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  • Taktix®||

    "And at what point do you turn off the spigot so you're not pouring money into a black hole?"

    Simple. Wait until the spigot runs dry, then print money to install another spigot.

    Repeat if necessary.

  • Tyler||

    A government bureaucracy operating in a warzone was wasteful and ineffective.

    The surprise here is that this was a surprise.

  • Ska||

    "For the last six years we have been on a steep learning curve."

    It's only a learning curve if you actually learn it.

    OT: Obama's Performance Czar Withdraws

    Nancy Killefer, nominated by President Obama to be the federal government's first chief performance officer, is withdrawing from the post, the White House said. An administration official confirmed that she is withdrawing over a tax problem. "On the heels of Geithner and Daschle, she just didn't want to go through with it," the official said.

    Because, you know, taxes are about patriotism and stimulating the economy. They're good and all, pay them.

  • Naga Sadow||

    Let me get this straight. People are baffled why nation building is inherently wasteful? Tres bizarre.

  • Naga Sadow||

    Ska,

    I'm beginning to wonder if ANY democrats pay taxes. Where's joe? I gotta question for him.

  • Ska||

    I guess they want to act like congressional democrats. Seriously, VP Biden, why didn't you step up and walk the walk, instead of watching cabinet appointees apologize for not paying their taxes. What bullshit.

  • ||

    The biggest beneficiaries of the American monies poured into Iraq and Afghanistan are of course American contractors, who swooped in to vacuum up all the goodness. The locals never got a look-in.

    In fact, this foreign aid was probably a useful "stimulus" for the US economy, since it was largely US corporations and individuals who benefited.

  • Egosumabbas||

    Somehow I can't drum up any outrage over a couple dozen billion spent in nation building when almost 1 trillion dollars of sweet federal stimulating is coming down the pipe.

  • Egosumabbas||

    It's like the numbers are too big and making my mind all stupid.

  • adrian||

    rust belt cities should attack washington in the hope of being occupied and having the cities be rebuilt.

  • Egosumabbas||

    Rust-belt cities have a right to be rust-free!

  • Alan||

    ... Euphrates valley to the Hindu Kush
    Is that a reference to the opening of the Book of Esther?
    This was Ahasueres, who reigned from Hodu [Euphrates] until Kush.

  • joe||

    We once had a thread about contractors vs. Seabees for war zone construction projects.

    Say what you will about the Army Corp, they don't steal stuff.

    rust belt cities should attack washington in the hope of being occupied and having the cities be rebuilt. The Mouse That Roared strategy? I like it.

  • joe||

    A government bureaucracy operating in a warzone was wasteful and ineffective.

    This is a story about contractors.

  • Bingo||

    "rust belt cities should attack washington in the hope of being occupied and having the cities be rebuilt."

    Brilliant!

  • joe||

    rust belt cities should attack washington in the hope of being occupied and having the cities be rebuilt.

    John Murtha is a way ahead of you.

  • ||

    A government bureaucracy operating in a warzone was wasteful and ineffective.

    This is a story about contractors.


    Paid by, and operating under the "supervision" of, a government bureaucracy.

    There are 154 open criminal investigations into allegations of bribery, conflicts of interest, defective products, bid rigging and theft in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait, said Gimble, the Pentagon's principal deputy inspector general.

    That sounds like a good start.

    Does anyone think that going with "native" firms wouldn't have resulted in at least as much waste, fraud, and abuse?

  • joe||

    Paid by, and operating under the "supervision" of, a government bureaucracy.

    As is everything in a war zone.

    This is a story about contractors.

    Does anyone think that going with "native" firms wouldn't have resulted in at least as much waste, fraud, and abuse?

    Going with uniformed military would have resulted in much less waste, fraud, and abuse.

  • ||

    "joe | February 3, 2009, 12:53pm | #
    We once had a thread about contractors vs. Seabees for war zone construction projects.

    Say what you will about the Army Corp, they don't steal stuff.
    "

    1 Seebees are Navy
    2 Both Army and Navy steal plenty joe.

    And, not just contractors, but the Army dudes in charge of contractors take bribes. Any time you hand power or money to individuals, you get possible corruption. When the client is not the government, you mitigate the problem.

  • ||

    Going with uniformed military would have resulted in much less waste, fraud, and abuse.

    How do you figure?
    I figure at some point you just add incompetence to the list.

    I mean at some point it just becomes as government making cars, that hasn't worked out anywhere. Doesn't really matter if you put a uniform on the maker or not.

    I think the answer is somewhat to go more native, somewhat to go less centralized, and wherever possible to make the client be the consumer of the product, and for the client not to be a bureaucrat that will never consume the product, and never has to calculate the cost from his own wages.

  • ||

    So, joe, you wouldn't argue that this is a story about contractors paid by, and operating under the "supervision" of, a government bureaucracy?

  • joe||

    kwais,

    1. I know what the CBs are, thanks.

    2. They seem to steal a lot less than the contractors.

    And, not just contractors, but the Army dudes in charge of contractors take bribes. Any time you hand power or money to individuals, you get possible corruption. That's exactly why government contracting is so ripe for abuse, and requires such tight oversight - which is tough to pull off in a warzone.

    I mean at some point it just becomes as government making cars No, you've got it exactly backwards; these are government, military jobs that need to get done. It's the introduction of private contractors into essentially public-sector responsibilities that was done so much during these wars.

    This isn't government building cars; it's General Motors running a police department.

    I can appreciate your point, kwais, about government and private industry having their own spheres. It's my point, too.

    RC, take a look back at everything I've written on this thread, and see if you can answer that question yourself.

  • joe||

    Since it's so incredibly important that it needs to be cleared up before RC Dean can bring himself to think about the actual subject being discussed:

    No, RC, this is not a failure of the Glorious Free Market.

    There, feel better?

  • ||

    "This isn't government building cars; it's General Motors running a police department.

    Perhaps if the neighborhood being policed could choose between either of those, and Toyota running their police department, Toyota would do a better job? I mean if the police are answerable to the citizens that they police, probably the better policers would be Toyota, no?

  • ||

    what the hell did I do wrong? The tags looked right!

  • ||

    That's exactly why government contracting is so ripe for abuse, and requires such tight oversight - which is tough to pull off in a warzone.

    I am not sure what difference the terms of the persons contract, or whether or not he wears a uniform makes.

  • joe||

    kwais,

    Here's your problem: Perhaps if the neighborhood being policed could choose... Do you think anybody in Afghanistan or Iraq - the actual populations subject to the actions of contractors - has the slightest say into their operations?

  • joe||

    I don't understand what difference the terms of a person's contract makes in how they do their jobs.

    Is this a joke?

  • ||

    ""I can appreciate your point, kwais, about government and private industry having their own spheres. It's my point, too.""

    My point was about who the person with the taxpayer money and power is accountable to. Not whether or not he wears a uniform.

    I don't see infrastructure or welfare necessarily as a government matter.

    Citizens making rules, or using force against other, or taking rights away from others is a government function. (So if Toyota (not GM) had a job of policing they would have no more rights or obligations than any citizen.)

    If you have the money at the scale of that given in Iraq to private industry, with the same accountability to government employees, uniformed or not. You will have the same level of corruption and waste. Human behavior being the constant here.

  • ||

    Do you think anybody in Afghanistan or Iraq

    You mean like via deceit or bribery? Then yes.

    But that is the problem, that the citizens don't have a say. Not that who they don't have a say over is a direct functionary of government or not.

  • ||

    joe | February 3, 2009, 4:25pm | #
    I don't understand what difference the terms of a person's contract makes in how they do their jobs.

    Is this a joke?


    Ok, that was not well said.

    The terms of the contract I meant was whether the person wears a uniform, or works directly for the government, or whether the person works for the government through another company.

  • joe||

    My point was about who the person with the taxpayer money and power is accountable to. Not whether or not he wears a uniform.

    So was mine. People in the military are accountable to a commanding officer who lives and works yards away from them, and who they see every day. He is, in turn, accountable to his own nearby CO. And every step up the ladder, they are subject to military discipline and law.

    As opposed to contractors sent overseas, into a war zone, and exempted from both the local and military legal system, whose superiors are several thousand miles away.

    I don't see infrastructure or welfare necessarily as a government matter. And there are those who don't see industry and commerce necessarily as private-sector matters. It takes a great deal of ideological commitment to hold either of these positions, which is why you see it so rarely.

  • ||

    Anecdotal Evidence to Follow:

    Two times I have seen corruption that most stick out in my mind.

    The first was when the Interpreter I had was trying to recruit me to work for him. He said that he knew who to bribe on the Iraqi side, and I had to bribe those on the US side. I told him that our military was not like the Iraqi military and government, that ours was full of devoted people who could be making more money in the civilian sector, that our guys had a checks and balances, and a code of ethics.

    He proved me wrong, with a high ranking US military person.

    The second was the Army officer that was in charge of the operation that I was working on. An Iraqi Colonel took half the pay of his men that were there, and the whole pay of his men that were not there (was 350 men, was supposed to be 450). And he bribed the US officer to get his job.

    One of our translators alerted us to the shenanigans, and the wholes in security. We reported it up the chain, and we received a direct order to drop the translator off at the nearest village, that he was fired.

    Well we were told to drop him off at the nearest village. We reported back that if we did that he was dead for sure, it was a little insurgent friendly village (near Haditha). The we were ordered to. We didn't we smuggled him into another convoy and he made it back to Baghdad where he got back on his feed.

    We came to find out that there were later at least one civilian and one military person involved that particular bribery circle.

    We tried to report it a couple of times, and our reports were shot down.

    My team leader then reported it as a hazard to the lives of US personnel, and it went up and was dealt with. He later died of an IED. I can't be sure if it was related or not.

    After writing all of that. I feel the need to say that, I have encountered many more military personnel, and civilians that would never take a bribe.
    And pretty near most all civilian and military would never take a bribe if they thought it would put lives in danger.

  • ||

    "People in the military are accountable to a commanding officer who lives and works yards away from them, and who they see every day. He is, in turn, accountable to his own nearby CO. And every step up the ladder, they are subject to military discipline and law."

    I have been in both, I didn't really see a difference of the type of accountability that you talk about.

    From unit to unit differs more than from military to civilian. It all depends whether the person who is supposed to hold his accountable cares to put forth the effort or not.

    If anything, my guess would be that the military on average are less accountable.

  • ||

    I don't see infrastructure or welfare necessarily as a government matter. And there are those who don't see industry and commerce necessarily as private-sector matters. It takes a great deal of ideological commitment to hold either of these positions, which is why you see it so rarely.

    I don't see it the latter as that uncommon on your side of the isle.

    As for the former, I am not sure when we changed in this country to believe that it infrastructure and welfare was the governments job. I think it was the '50s or so. We had a lot of growth in wealth and technology in the time before we did go the socialist route. Possibly more than any other nation in the history of the world.

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