Afghanistan Reconstruction:

Deteriorating Security and Limited Resources Have Impeded Progress; Improvements in U.S. Strategy Needed

GAO-04-403: Published: Jun 2, 2004. Publicly Released: Jun 2, 2004.

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In October 2001, in response to the Taliban regime's protection of al Qaeda terrorists who attacked the United States, coalition forces forcibly removed the regime from Afghanistan. In December 2002, Congress passed the Afghanistan Freedom Support Act authorizing assistance funds to help Afghanistan rebuild a stable, democratic society. The act directed GAO to monitor the implementation of U.S. humanitarian and development assistance. This report analyzes, for fiscal years 2002-2003, (1) U.S. obligations and expenditures in Afghanistan, (2) results of assistance projects, (3) the assistance coordination mechanisms and strategy, and (4) major obstacles that affected the achievement of U.S. goals.

Of the $900 million that the U.S. government spent on nonsecurity-related assistance in Afghanistan in fiscal years 2002-2003, over 75 percent supported humanitarian efforts, including emergency food and shelter, and over 20 percent supported longer-term reconstruction. USAID, the Department of State, and the Department of Defense spent $508 million, $254 million, and $64 million, respectively, for humanitarian, quick-impact, and some longer-term projects. U.S. funding represented about 38 percent of the $3.7 billion the international community disbursed over the 2-year period. U.S. humanitarian and short-term assistance benefited Afghanistan, but longerterm reconstruction efforts achieved limited results by the end of fiscal year 2003 due to late funding. By providing food and shelter to returning refugees and other vulnerable populations, early U.S. assistance helped avert a humanitarian crisis. USAID's and Defense's quick-impact projects also helped rebuild smallscale infrastructure such as schools and bridges. USAID initiated several longerterm reconstruction activities, such as repairing the Kabul-Kandahar road and starting a democracy program. However, because of delays in funding most major assistance contracts were not signed until summer 2003, limiting the results in fiscal years 2002-2003. U.S. coordination mechanisms for Afghanistan assistance were generally effective, but international assistance was not well coordinated in fiscal years 2002-2003. In addition, the United States lacked a complete and integrated assistance strategy, which hampered the U.S. government's ability to focus available resources and hold itself accountable for measurable results. Further, U.S. officials responsible for coordinating efforts lacked complete financial data, which hindered their ability to oversee the assistance. In fiscal years 2002-2003, Afghanistan confronted many obstacles that other postconflict nations have faced, such as multiple competing parties. In addition, security deteriorated and opium production increased, thereby jeopardizing U.S. reconstruction efforts. Lack of staff, poor working conditions, and delayed reconstruction funding further impeded U.S. efforts. In September 2003, to expedite progress, the U.S. government announced the "Accelerating Success" initiative, providing $1.76 billion for reconstruction in 2004.

Status Legend:

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  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: The Administrator of USAID should revise its strategy for the agency's assistance program in Afghanistan. The revised strategy should, among other things, (1) contain measurable goals, specific time frames, and resource levels; (2) delineate responsibilities; (3) identify external factors that could significantly affect the achievement of its goals; and (4) include a schedule for program evaluations that assess progress against the strategy's goals.

    Agency Affected: Department of State: Agency for International Development

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In our June 2004, AFGHANISTAN RECONSTRUCTION: Deteriorating Security and Limited Resources Have Impeded Progress; Improvements in U.S. Strategy Needed (GAO-04-403), we recommended that the Administrator of USAID revise its strategy for the agency's assistance program in Afghanistan. The revised strategy should, among other things, (1) contain measurable goals, specific timeframes, and resource levels; (2) delineate responsibilities; (3) identify external factors that could significantly affect the achievement of its goals; and (4) include a schedule of program evaluations that assess progress against the strategy's goals. In its response to our report USAID agreed that it needed to develop a more complete strategy. In March 2005, the USAID mission in Kabul, Afghanistan completed a comprehensive strategy to guide its assistance efforts in Afghanistan. USAID's Administrator approved the strategy in July 2005. The strategy describes goals, objectives, resource levels, and obstacles. In addition, the USAID mission in Kabul, Afghanistan initiated an effort to develop a performance management plan to measure the extent to which development efforts are achieving objectives and contributing to the achievement of the strategy's overall goals.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should direct the Coordinator for U.S. Assistance to Afghanistan to produce an annual consolidated budget report for all assistance to Afghanistan.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In our June 2004, AFGHANISTAN RECONSTRUCTION: Deteriorating Security and Limited Resources Have Impeded Progress; Improvements in U.S. Strategy Needed (GAO-04-403), we recommended that the Secretary of State improve financial reporting for U.S. assistance to Afghanistan. Improvements were to include semiannually reporting obligations and expenditures for all U.S. assistance delineated by agency and office or bureau. In December 2004, Public Law 108-458 amended section 103 of the Afghanistan Freedom Support Act of 2002 (P.L. 107-327). The amendment requires the Secretary of State to submit to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and the House Committee on International Relations an annual report that describes the activities and the purposes for which funds were obligated; the source of funds by fiscal year, agency, and program; the participation of each U.S. government department or agency; and other information the Secretary considers appropriate to fully inform Congress. The Department of State now replaced its ad-hoc Afghanistan assistance obligations data reporting with a formal annual process.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should direct the Coordinator for U.S. Assistance to Afghanistan to semiannually report obligations and expenditures for the assistance provided, delineated by relevant U.S. agencies and the bureaus and offices within each agency semiannually.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In our June 2004, AFGHANISTAN RECONSTRUCTION: Deteriorating Security and Limited Resources Have Impeded Progress; Improvements in U.S. Strategy Needed (GAO-04-403), we recommended that the Secretary of State improve financial reporting for U.S. assistance to Afghanistan. Improvements were to include semiannual reporting obligations and expenditures for all U.S. assistance delineated by agency and office or bureau. In December 2004, Public Law 108-458 amended section 103 of the Afghanistan Freedom Support Act of 2002 (P.L. 107-327). The amendment requires the Secretary of State to submit to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and the House Committee on International Relations an annual report that describes the activities and the purposes for which funds were obligated; the source of funds by fiscal year, agency, and program; the participation of each U.S. government department or agency; and other information the Secretary considers appropriate to fully inform Congress. The Department of State now replaced its ad-hoc Afghanistan assistance obligations data reporting with a formal annual process.

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