Our $18.8 billion nation-building efforts in Afghanistan have had only limited success, while vastly distorting the Afghan economy, a new report from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee concludes. A whopping 97% of Afghanistan’s GDP comes from foreign military and development spending, meaning the country “could suffer a severe economic depression when foreign troops leave in 2014,” the report finds. The money has also fueled corruption thanks to lax oversight.
Local officials are often bombarded with a “tidal wave of funding” that they’re incapable of “spending wisely,” the report complains, and the lure of “inflated salaries” that are as much as 10 times the norm from foreign governments and contractors pulls qualified civil servants away from the Afghan government. Putting an end to such salaries is the "single most important step" the Obama administration could take, recommends the report. And there’s waste: The military often funds projects even after US development experts say they lack achievable goals. “We’ve created a wartime economy,” Chairman John Kerry tells the Washington Post. “It’s very dangerous, and we have to get a handle on it rapidly.” (Read more Afghanistan stories.)