We're Wasting Billions in Afghanistan Aid
US has spent $73B since 9/11, but accounting is too lax: James R. Petersen
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 11, 2012 11:50 AM CST
Afghan National Army cadet graduates stand at attention during a graduation ceremony at the Ghazi Military Training Centre in Kabul on December 15, 2011.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – The US has poured $73 billion in reconstruction aid into Afghanistan since 9/11, but only a small fraction of that has reached the intended recipients, writes a former government auditor. "Where has all the money gone?" asks James R. Petersen, who worked in Afghanistan and later with the US agency charged with tracking the aid. "Has anyone verified it went where it was supposed to go?" His answer at Politico: "No. The money isn’t going where we think it is—and $73 billion is a ton of treasure to waste."

Consider the path: USAID gives the money to nongovernmental organizations in Afghanistan to distribute, and those NGOS take about 70% off the top for overhead in a war zone. That leaves 30 cents for every dollar of aid, and generally about half of that gets stolen by local officials. When all is said and done, sometimes less than 10 cents per dollar gets delivered to the intended targets. The debate over how much aid the US gives to Afghanistan will go on for a while, but the days of lax accounting surely must end, writes Petersen. "Alarmingly, it appears that those charged with policing the cookie jar and those who spent $73 billion of our money have failed us."