If You Are Surprised U.S. Aid Encouraged Afghan Corruption, You Haven’t Been Paying Attention

This story from Bloomberg should surprise no one.

The U.S. government “created an environment that fostered corruption” in Afghanistan by supporting warlords, relying on private trucking contracts and providing billions of dollars in aid, according to a previously undisclosed Pentagon report.

“Corruption directly threatens the viability and legitimacy of the Afghan state” after a “large-scale culture of impunity” took hold, analysts for the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a 65-page assessment obtained by Bloomberg News. American forces dependent on Afghanistan-based trucking companies found themselves “trapped in a warlord protection racket,” according to the report dated Feb. 28.

The Afghan war has cost 2,314 Americans their lives and wounded 19,701 as of April 21, and the report threatens to undercut any remaining support for the dwindling mission from lawmakers, as well as taxpayers and U.S. allies who’ve spent billions to support the Afghan government. The war has cost the U.S. more than $710 billion since 2001, according to the National Priorities Project, which studies federal spending.

The report doesn’t pretend that the Afghan culture would have been corruption-free without the U.S. It claims that U.S. decision-makers somehow didn’t know about the “integrated and pervasive threat corruption posed.” But how could they not. Did they move on Afghanistan without consulting anyone who had been there before?

Basically, we poured money into Afghanistan. It was something like spraying down a campfire with kerosene. The situation could only get worse.

The newly disclosed assessment by the Joint and Coalition Operational Analysis division of the Joint Staff provides a more candid assessment of the underlying causes, including the role of U.S. strategy. It was commissioned last year by Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford, the commander of U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan.

The assessment refers to the funding “deluge” that was accompanied by “weak oversight.” The corruption became so entrenched, that the report claims that nothing could be done about it without jeopardizing the mission.

All of these excuses sound like a whitewash to me. There is no way this corruption problem should have been unexpected. And there is no reason to believe the military people themselves didn’t ever benefit from it and want it to continue.  After all, we all should know the Pentagon has no record of being impervious to corruption. It is about as accountable as those contractors in Afghanistan.

What do you think?