US projects to continue in Afghanistan

May 17, 2014 - 12:00:00 am

WASHINGTON:  The US has spent $103bn on rebuilding everything from hospitals to security forces in Afghanistan, but Kabul’s modest finances make it unlikely the projects could be maintained in the future, a top US watchdog says.

John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, said even with the US war effort winding down, US spending in the country is likely to continue at a pace of $6bn to $10bn a year. He said $18bn has been appropriated for Afghan projects and not yet spent.

Sopko, in prepared remarks for the Middle East Institute think tank, said US funding for Afghan reconstruction has topped the amount spent rebuilding Britain or Germany following World War Two. Annual payments are more than what Washington gives to Israel, Egypt and Pakistan combined, he said. The result is that the government of Afghanistan, one of the world’s poorest countries, needs an annual budget of about $7.6bn, but is able to raise only about $2bn from its people. 

Sopko said at assessment by the Centre for Naval Analysis concluded the Afghan National Security Forces would need 373,000 personnel, significantly more than currently planned. That would cost between $5bn and $6bn annually, up to three times Kabul’s revenues.