Despite $900 Billion Spent and 2,400 U.S. Lives Lost, Afghanistan Continues to Deteriorate

The government's Afghanistan watchdog releases sobering report on the progress of the war.



A new report is out from the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR)—the government's watchdog for the war—and its findings paint an ugly picture: despite billions spent and thousands of U.S. lives lost, Afghanistan is facing worsening violence and instability.

SIGAR's quarterly report to Congress—its 40st since the conflict began—found that the U.S.-backed Afghan government controls or influences just 56 percent of the administrative districts in the country, down from 72 percent in 2015. By comparison, some 14 percent of districts are now controlled or influenced by insurgent forces, and another 30 percent are rated "contested."

The loss of territory has coincided with a slight drop in violent incidents. There were a reported 63 violent incidences per day in Afghanistan from February to May of this year (the period covered by the SIGAR report), a 7 percent decrease from the same period last year. However, both targeted assassinations and suicide bombings were up in the same period, rising 35 percent and 78 percent respectively, from last year.

Civilian deaths are also up. A record 1,692 civilians were killed in the first six months of 2018, according to the SIGAR report, slightly more than the 1,672 civilians killed last year, and a massive increase from the 1,052 civilians killed in 2009. When factoring in injuries, total casualties had declined slightly in the first six months of this year to 5,122, down from 5,272 last year.

Of these casualties, the SIGAR report—relying on United Nations data—found that 67 percent were the result of anti-government forces, while 20 percent were attributed to pro-government forces, which would include the U.S.

Some 353 casualties (149 dead and 204 injured) were the result of airstrikes, up from 232 last year and coinciding with a sharp increase in the number of U.S. airstrikes this year.

In addition to the ongoing violence in the country, SIGAR has found that U.S. efforts to stabilize the country have "mostly failed," despite our spending some $4.7 billion on such efforts since 2002. In a bulleted list of "lessons learned," the SIGAR report notes that "the U.S. government greatly overestimated its ability to build and reform government institutions in Afghanistan" and U.S. aid—far from reducing violence or strengthening Afghan governance—often "exacerbated conflicts, enabled corruption, and bolstered support for insurgents."

The SIGAR report also had harsh words for the U.S. government's attempts to crackdown on opium production, with Special Inspector General John F. Sopko saying that despite $8 billion spent on counternarcotics efforts since 2002, "Afghanistan's opium crisis is worse than ever."

None of this should come as much of a surprise, given the mind-boggling waste SIGAR has previously reported in Afghanistan, including spending $43 million on a compressed natural gas station and another $60 million on a Marriot hotel in downtown Kabul that, despite being totally unoccupied, still requires heavy security to prevent insurgents using the ghost building as a base from which to fire rockets down into the nearby U.S. embassy.

This newest report is a depressing reminder that after losing 2,400 U.S. military personnel and spending some $900 billion total on the war, the U.S. has failed to build a stable, democratic Afghan government that can provide for its own security.

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  1. Maybe if we treated it more like we did the War on Poverty, we’d have more success.

    1. Actually, because the government and progressives insist on defining poverty in relative rather than absolute terms (and exclude government welfare payments), not only is it completely impossible to win the war on poverty, it’s impossible to even make the tiniest bit of marginal progress.

      1. Heresy!! Those lowest 25% will get so rich they will eliminate the fourth quartile.

      2. You’re making the mistake of measuring outputs rather than inputs. The government measures success by the number of poor people being helped by government programs, therefore it’s simple to see that we will have achieved success in the War on Poverty when 100% of the population is jobless and living in Section 8 housing on food stamps, welfare checks and EIC payments.

      3. Go easy on them. All they want to do is eliminate the bottom top and bottom 10% and make sure everyone is in the remaining 80% range.

  2. How does that saying go? Oh yeah, “It’s not a defect, it’s a feature”.

    1. The M-I-C is the K-E-Y

  3. What’s that saying again? Oh yeah, “It’s not a defect, it’s a feature”

  4. 40st

    That seems like the wrong superscript there.

    1. It’s correct in this case, because it’s not using it to tell you how many times the report has occurred, but how it’s most 40 of all 40th reports.

      1. Rick and 40 is such a great show.

  5. But we’re already spent so much, it would be a waste of money and resources to stop our efforts now.

    1. Three words: Sunk Cost Fallacy

      1. That only applies to lowland areas not mountainous regions

  6. Can’t buy more bombs unless you use the ones you already have.

  7. GTFO. STFO.

  8. Come in here dear boy have a SIGAR, you’re gonna go far….

  9. Alt-text: Keep these military-style assault weapons in Afghanistan or they’ll end up on your street.

  10. $900 billion buys a lot of lobbying and Congressional votes for profit-generating, albeit counterproductive, military belligerence.

  11. I sense I have paid at least $45,000 to fund the clustermuck in Afghanistan. If the costs in Iraq, Israel, Egypt, the Palestinian Territories, etc. are added, I probably could have built a modest home with my share of the money squandered in that region over 25 or more years.

    We should have stopped associating ourselves with and enabling unattractive partners in the Middle East — from Saudi Arabia and Syria, Jordan to Israel, some Iraqis to just about everyone else in that region — long ago. Mostly, what we have to show for our efforts, investments, and losses are plenty of enemies and low-quality “friends.”

    1. Don’t forget Libya and Yemen.

  12. The reason this war continues is because all that money being spent is someone’s income and they do not want that to dry up.

    So offer these people, say, three years worth of the money they are receiving now in one tax-free lump sum and in exchange they pull all support for the war.

    Bingo-bango no more war.

    I mean you could keep trying political agitation and see how far that gets you or you can ladle out the cash and make it happen now, saving who knows how many innocent lives.

    You could also do the same with the War on Drugs.

  13. Can we please just leave and let these Iron Age peasant goatfuckers kill each other as much as they want? Why are we still there? Fuck that place.

    We can drone strike the fuck out if them from over here if they get uppity. Let them live in huts without electricity or indoor plumbing. Let the Taliban bully them if they won’t fight back. A thousand curses on that spoiled place.

  14. “the mind-boggling waste SIGAR has previously reported in Afghanistan, including spending $43 million on a compressed natural gas station and another $60 million on a Marriot hotel in downtown Kabul”

    Actually, it’s the $900 billion that’s mind-boggling. The compressed natural gas station and the $60 million Marriot are pretty much chicken feed. In the larger scheme of things, of course.

  15. Didn’t Obama get a Nobel Peace Prize for surging the war and ending it?

    1. He got the peace prize for literally not being Bush.

      1. And a damn fine job he did of it, too. I can honestly say he’s not even slightly George W Bush. So good job on that.

      2. He got the peace prize solely for being black.

        1. And a Democrat.
          Do you think for a second that if Ben Carson had run and won in 2008, that the international aristocracy would have given him anything for being black?

  16. Of course you know what the problem is: government failed to spend enough money or send enough troops there!

    Lyndon Johnson, your country needs you…

  17. Test

  18. Nothing a few well-places nukes couldn’t cure!!

  19. $900 Billion is how much was spent rescuing Matt Damon over a series of movies.

  20. Honestly the student loan program has cost more lives and treasure.

  21. This was always a political adventure undertaken for political gain and for profit to corrupt Americans and Afghans.

    An expensive experiment and failure. When will we simply recognize that the U.S. government has no authority to act in Afghanistan and stop wasting lives and money.

    Walk away.

  22. “despite billions spent and thousands of U.S. lives lost, Afghanistan is facing worsening violence and instability.”

    So you’re saying our existing presence is too small?

    1. We haven’t dropped enough bombs.

  23. And it was supposed to be a pushover– isn’t that what the Russkies told us?

  24. Sad that the Afghan government cannot take control over the country. I discovered a report on about the Afghan war and the results aren’t satisfying.

    1. They don’t want to. If Afghanistan becomes stable, the US will leave and the gravy train propping up the corrupt government will dry up.

      1. Can’t believe you answered a spam bot.

  25. The place is an opium farm. The war there is for the same reason as in China in 1840 and 1857, in Europe in 1912-1918, everywhere in 1939-1945, and in Vietnam after the French opium regie was tossed out and gangland America went in to ship coffinloads of heroin into These States. Prohibition makes the drug racket too profitable to pass up–or to allow non-aggression to endanger.

    1. Has it always been an opium farm? If that’s their traditional crop, taking the war on some drugs there puts us in the same position as teetotalers banning Iowan farmers from growing corn because it might be used to brew whiskey – there’d be a revolt that was practically impossible to put down.

  26. What does victory in Afghanistan look like again?

    1. Sheet of glass.

    2. 80% Afghanistan control of their own country = victory

  27. I guess the Globalist Hymnbook isn’t working – Perhaps we should try a different approach?
    In reviewing the history of Afghanistan going back to Alexander and before, it would appear that the next approach to be considered is to “Nuke Them From Space – just to be sure”.

    1. The Mongols kept it in check.

      In 1219 Genghis Khan invaded from the northeast. His armies slaughtered thousands in the cities of Kabul, Kandahar, Jalalabad etc. After Genghis Khan returned to Mongolia, there was a rebellion in the region of Helmand which was brutally put down by his son and successor, Ogedei Khan, who put all male residents of Ghazni and Helmand to the sword in 1222; the women were enslaved and sold. Thereafter most parts of Afghanistan remained under Mongol rule except the south.
      There were no significant uprisings.
      Then in 1385 another Mongol ruler called Tamerlane decided to conquer the south. Tamerlane’s armies caused great devastation across Central Asia and are estimated to have caused the deaths of 17 million people across . He brought great destruction on Afghanistan’s south, slaughtering thousands and enslaving an equal number of women.
      Once conquered the south stayed quite too.

      America should have either completely conquered Afghanistan as their enemy like the Mongols, or fucked off. This half-ass stupidity is worse than either choice.

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