Afghanistan: Key Oversight Issues

GAO-13-218SP Published: Feb 11, 2013. Publicly Released: Feb 11, 2013.
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What GAO Found

The key issues, based on existing GAO work, suggest specific areas for oversight on the following topics:

  • Afghanistan’s security environment. Afghanistan’s security situation remains volatile in part due to an increase in insider attacks.

  • Transition of lead security to Afghan security forces. The security transition is under way, and international forces are shifting to an advise-and-assist mission.

  • Future cost and sustainability of Afghan security forces. A shortfall currently exists in Afghan domestic revenue and international commitments to cover the anticipated costs of Afghan security forces, and despite past recommendations and a congressional mandate, the Department of Defense (DOD) has not routinely provided long-term cost estimates for sustaining those forces.

  • DOD planning for the drawdown of equipment in Afghanistan. DOD has applied some lessons learned from Iraq to its planning and has taken several steps to prepare for the drawdown in Afghanistan, but has not fully considered the costs and benefits of returning excess equipment.
  • Afghanistan’s donor dependence. Afghanistan’s domestic revenues do not cover its total public expenditures, over 90 percent of which are covered by the United States and international partners. The international community has pledged its continued support.
  • Oversight and accountability of U.S. funds to support Afghanistan. The United States continues to take steps to improve Afghanistan’s financial management capacity, as well as the accountability of U.S. direct assistance.

  • Oversight and streamlining of development assistance to Afghanistan. Oversight of U.S. programmatic funds has been enhanced, but U.S. development efforts in Afghanistan could benefit from a shared database.

  • Oversight of U.S. contracts in Afghanistan. Contract management and contractor vetting require continued attention.

  • Planning for the future U.S. presence in Afghanistan. The military to civilian-led transition in Iraq could offer lessons for similar efforts in Afghanistan as the United States plans for five diplomatic sites and the future U.S. military presence is under negotiations.

Why GAO Did This Study

The U.S. strategic goal for Afghanistan is to defeat and prevent the return of al Qaeda and its affiliates. Since fiscal year 2002, U.S. costs reported for U.S. military, U.S. diplomatic, and reconstruction and relief operations in Afghanistan have been over $500 billion. Given U.S. strategic goals and the level of U.S. resources expected to support Afghanistan in the future, GAO has identified a number of key issues for the 113th Congress to consider in developing oversight agendas and determining the way forward in Afghanistan. Significant oversight will be needed to help ensure visibility over the cost and progress of these efforts.

For more information, please contact Charles Michael Johnson, Jr. at (202) 512-7331 or

Following the withdrawal of US and coalition forces from Afghanistan, in August 2021 the State Department requested that GAO temporarily remove and review reports on Afghanistan to protect the safety of individuals associated with US assistance or programs. As a result of that review, GAO decided to redact some information from this report.

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