The Western occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan remains highly controversial, more than eight years after the U.S. and U.K invaded Afghanistan. But how much does the American public really know about the current program in the Middle East and the amount of money being spent abroad? Recently, The Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan found that more than $30 billion has been wasted in Afghanistan and Iraq over the past ten years (Washington Post).
The commission, formed to mimic Truman’s Committee which exposed WWII waste, highlighted numerous problems in its previous 2009 report, titled “At What Cost? Contingency Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan.” For one, the drawdown of Iraq leaves many projects uncompleted with contracts paid-in-full. There was little strategic planning before the U.S. invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan. Moreover, there is a general lack of communication between the host countries and planning officials. And seventy percent of projects are sub-contracted, with little government supervision or accountability for results (2009 Report).
The Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan will release its 2011 report online this Wednesday at www.wartimecontracting.gov. The document will also be submitted to Congress, after which it will probably be shredded by most staff.
Some of the most egregious wastes of money include a $40 million unfinished prison in Iraq, a $300 million power plant in Afghanistan that the country cannot maintain, and $11.4 billion to the Afghanistan National Security Forces (BBC News). Meanwhile, U.S. prisons are severely overcrowded, with the state of California’s prison population nearly double its capacity; the government neglects national security domestically along its own borders; and many American soldiers serve four or five tours overseas.
Reconstruction project in Iraq (Photo credit: The Telegraph)
Why are Americans paying to build infrastructure in a foreign country that will deteriorate or be destroyed when we cannot afford to maintain our own? While I have no objections about rebuilding what the United States haphazardly bombed, I cannot understand why Americans are paying to build another country or to play world police. Between 2001 and 2009, the United States Congress appropriated an exorbitant $80 billion for the reconstruction of Iraq and Afghanistan (2009 Report). This is a job best left to the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, supported by the United Nations, which can encourage true diplomacy and provide the necessary humanitarian aid.