(Phatforums News / USA Today) — Delays in U.S.-funded multimillion-dollar development projects in Afghanistan could jeopardize the success of NATO’s counterinsurgency strategy, according to a report by a U.S. audit agency released Monday.
Five of seven major infrastructure projects funded in 2011 have been delayed because of funding or acquisition issues, according to the report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. The report said the projects varied from six to 15 months behind schedule.
Failure to get the projects operating quickly could undermine public support for the coalition and Afghanistan’s government, the report said. The infrastructure projects include efforts to provide power to Afghanistan’s major cities.
The report also faulted the State Department and the Pentagon for not developing adequate plans to sustain the massive projects once most U.S. forces leave after 2014.
The report specifically examined the Afghanistan Infrastructure Project, a joint State and Defense Department program to fund major projects in Afghanistan.
The Pentagon said it disagreed with the report’s conclusions. In a written response to the report, the Defense Department called the report “premature,” noting that a successful counterinsurgency does not depend solely on the completion of a handful of massive projects.
“The report reflects a fundamental lack of understanding of U.S. counterinsurgency doctrine and the integrated civil-military strategy for Afghanistan,” the Pentagon said.
The Pentagon referred to the example of Kajaki dam, a massive hydroelectric project to improve electricity distribution to a large chunk of Afghanistan. Reconstruction of the dam is far from complete, but the clearing of a road to it by U.S. Marines and Afghan forces has helped win public support for the Afghan government.
“To fully understand the (counterinsurgency) impacts of the infrastructure projects it is necessary to look holistically at the entire effort,” the Defense Department wrote.
The report highlights some of the challenges of building large projects in an undeveloped country such as Afghanistan. In the past 10 years Congress has appropriated $89 billion for reconstruction efforts.
The watchdog agency recommended enhancing decision making and coordination among U.S. government agencies. It also said the agencies should “increase the likelihood” that the projects can be sustained once they are finished.