USAID Road Building in Afghanistan…a Study in Waste
Tuesday, January 03, 2012
Rajiv Shah, Administrator of USAID
Road construction in Afghanistan under the auspices of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is so terrible that “one could argue that USAID officials are providing aid and comfort to the enemy,” according to Matthew J. Nasuti of Kabul Press.
Efforts to develop the highway infrastructure of the war-torn nation have been “cheap,” badly designed and “poorly constructed.” Problems plaguing the projects include unwillingness on the part of USAID officials to supervise construction, preferring instead to remain in the capital, Kabul, for fear of attacks by insurgents.
Furthermore, once a new road is completed, it “immediately” begins “to decay as Afghanistan lacks the resources and skilled personnel to maintain these costly, modern structures.”
Back in May, The New York Times documented a particularly unfortunate example of corruption and ineptitude: the Garden-Khost Road, which was meant to link the Afghan government to remote areas of the country south of Kabul near the border with Pakistan. USAID gave the contract to the Louis Berger Group of New Jersey and Black & Veatch of Kansas, which subcontracted with Indian and South African companies, which in turn subcontracted with Afghans, who found other subcontractors. Because each company took cuts from the original USAID money, by the time financing reached people who were actually performing construction, there was not enough money to do the work.
Nasuti, a former U.S. Air Force Captain with Air Force Logistics Command, suggests that USAID would have been better off sticking to tried and true macadam or poured concrete roads instead of the low-cost asphalt it did use in Afghanistan. He also calls attention to the reliable Quonset Hut, first designed by the U.S. Navy in 1941 and still viable. Instead, USAID created more modern buildings that have proved less efficient and more expensive.
-David Wallechinsky, Noel Brinkerhoff
Building Afghanistan into Ruin (by Matthew Masuti, Kabul Press)
Costly Afghanistan Road Project Is Marred by Unsavory Alliances (by Alissa J. Rubin and James Risen, New York Times)
U.S. Pays $176 Million to Build Road in Afghanistan (by David Wallechinsky and Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
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