After being denied entry to Afghanistan during a visit in April, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) targeted the nation‚??s president this week, pressing officials with USAID and the Government Accountability Office to determine how many American dollars have been funneled into the corrupt Karzai regime.
In a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rohrabacher made clear that he believed he had been refused visa because of the hard questions he was asking about corruption and abuse, not just his advocacy of a decentralized government in Afghanistan, as Afghan officials had said at the time.
‚??What reforms I‚??m calling for could mean a great deal to the family fortune, so to speak,‚?Ě he said. ¬†‚??Many people in Washington as well as in Kabul do not want me or anyone else to look into the basket to see if all the eggs are still there.‚?Ě
According to the GAO, that question is hard to answer; but it‚??s clear that aid accountability mechanisms have been sorely lacking for most of the decade the U.S. has spent in Afghanistan.
Since 2002, officials said, the U.S. has spent $90 billion on aid and development in Afghanistan. Of that, $15.7 billion are non-military funds obligated by USAID. Only last year, according to GAO reports, did USAID create a process to vet non-U.S. contractors to determine whether or not they were funding risks. Other accounting was incomplete; the office found only 70 percent of contractors and recipients of assistance were included in USAID estimates, while Defense Department contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan had been undervalued in estimates to the tune of nearly $4 billion.
‚??How many years of a counter-terrorist campaign does it take to start worrying whether American funds are going into the pockets of terrorists?‚?Ě said an exasperated Rohrabacher.
While accountability has improved, GAO director of Acquisition and Sourcing Management John Hutton said the aid operation is still deficient in know-how.
‚??Most important is the lack of trained personnel, in both numbers and experience, to help monitor performance,‚?Ě Hutton said.
Later in the day, USAID deputy director of the Officer of Afghanistan and Pakistan Affairs Donald ‚??Larry‚?Ě Sampler said his organization had made a difference in a decade: school enrollment had jumped from 900,000 to eight million with female students representing a third of the total; the number of Afghans with access to electricity had tripled; and infrastructure had improved.
‚??USAID is focusing our efforts on areas with the greatest potential for increasing domestic revenue and sustainable growth and away from areas that require foreign assistance,‚?Ě Sampler said.
While admitting Sampler‚??s testimony did paint a different picture of the outlook in Afghanistan, Rohrabacher voiced his disappointment overall with the level of aid accountability.
‚??After all of these years, it is disheartening to hear how late in the game how loose this situation is,‚?Ě he said.
Rohrabacher has said he is not immediately concerned with finding a way back into Afghanistan to meet with Afghan leaders, but hopes to assist discussions about the U.S. drawdown in the country and what form of government and infrastructure they will leave behind.