The United States continues to pour money into Afghanistan — and not just in those bags of cash that Hamid Karzai has insisted keep being delivered to his office. Billions have disappeared while hundreds of millions have been spent on dubious projects rife with corruption. This week we have an insight into just how shoddy this work is in Afghanistan. The U.S. Agency for International Development paid Afghan firms $17.1 million to build 16 small schools. The contractors ripped off the U.S. and built one school that still cannot occupied due to structural dangers.
The Mazar-e-Sharif school in the northern Afghanistan region of Balkh is brand new and declared structurally unsafe. This is a small school that has now been five years in construction. The building was constructed without air conditioning so it cannot be occupied in the hot Afghan summers. It has leaks around the building, crossing sewer lines and an incomplete electrical system. that has numerous deficiencies, the report said. The architecture is so poor that a second floor terrace slopes into a classroom, causing floods whenever it rains, according to the report. The report said critical structural calculations were missing during the audit, which was called “a significant oversight” given the chances of a roof caving in or collapse of the septic tank system.
What is interesting is that the U.S. went to that other cesspool of corruption, Iraq, to recruit a company to build in Afghanistan. The Iraqi company proceeded to rack up 62 deficiency notices for poor work and left schools uninhabitable.
We are now looking for new contractors to pay to repair the new unoccupied buildings. I suppose that is still better than the buildings constructed by the U.S. military that are slated to be torn down as soon as they are completed or planes purchased only to be sent to scrapyards.
The terrible aspect of this story is that I much prefer building schools than given Karzai and his corrupt family more bags of cash or buying aircraft from Italian companies that will never be used. I am particularly eager to see schools for women and girls in an area where they continue to be denied basic opportunities and education. Yet, the waste and corruption in both Iraq and Afghanistan has continued due to little accountability of U.S. officials funneling this money into the hands of these politicians and contractors. We are fueling the corruption while tapping U.S. taxpayers for billions that are badly needed at home.