How did the US $ 2.1 trillion crush Afghanistan?

Still, it took the Taliban just nine days to capture every provincial capital, disband the army, and overthrow the US-backed government by August 2021.

When the Taliban fighters conquered the capital Kabul without losing a bullet, President Joe Biden blamed the Afghans for failing to defend their country.

The US Embassy in Kabul has been closed and all US troops have returned home. But the hundreds of billions of dollars spent fighting the war on Afghan soil – American troops arriving in Afghanistan to retaliate against al-Qaeda after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks – can still be seen all over the world. this country, good or bad.

Abandoned air bases, unfinished construction projects and tens of thousands of guns scattered across the countryside – all bought with American money.

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President Joe Biden was silent while referring to those who died during his speech on Afghanistan on August 26. Photo: Reuters

The dollar also created the “9-11 millionaires,” a small class of young and extremely wealthy Afghans working as contractors for foreign militaries. Some of these millionaires became role models for a new generation of Afghan entrepreneurs and philanthropists.

However, many others took advantage of the family’s connections with government officials or local lords to get lucrative contracts. Over time, American government contracts became the impetus for a system of mass corruption that engulfed Afghanistan and ultimately destroyed its fragile democracy.

“The bottom line for the defeat is not the Taliban insurgency. It’s the weight of endemic corruption,” said Ryan Crocker, the US ambassador to Afghanistan in 2016.

In Crocker’s view, the United States is largely responsible for corruption in Afghanistan because it has brought billions of dollars into the country, more than the economy can absorb. “We can’t bring that money to a fragile society without it causing corruption,” Mr. Crocker concluded.

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A money changer holds a stack of Afghan currency on a street in central Kabul. Photo: Reuters

Mr. Crocker was one of more than 500 officials interviewed by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) for an internal project called “Lessons Learned”.

SIGAR never wanted the public to read full, honest interviews, but in 2019 a judge ordered the project to be published.

Reading this project today, Mr. Crocker’s insight into the dangers posed by massive US government contracts to Afghanistan seems predictable. However, it is not always the prevailing opinion.

In the early years of the war in Afghanistan, when American troops were still hunting al-Qaeda and fighting the Taliban, using local contractors to supply US military bases seemed like an idea. good.

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Afghan men change money at the main currency exchange market after it reopened in Kabul on September 4. Photo:

In Iraq, most of the supply and logistics work for the US military is done not by locals but through contracts with giant multinational companies.

But in Afghanistan, awarding government contracts to Afghan citizens is seen as an important part of the overall US counterinsurgency strategy. It was even codified into an official Pentagon procurement policy called “Afghanistan First”, which was passed by the US Congress in 2008.

Many Afghans who have become millionaires by working as contractors for the United States began as interpreters, accompanying American soldiers on dangerous missions. This is a good foundation for the difficult and difficult defense contract business later.

One of them was Mr. Fahim Hashimy, an English teacher in Kabul in 2001. When US troops arrived in Afghanistan, Mr. Hashhimy was hired as an interpreter. He then founded a small company that supplied goods and fuel to military bases.

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Mr. Ryan Crocker, US Ambassador to Afghanistan. Photo: Washington Post

Today, that company, the Hashhimy Group, is a huge conglomerate that includes a broadcaster, production facilities, real estate investments, trucking and a start-up airline, all of which are headquartered based in Afghanistan.

Mr. Hashhimy is a millionaire and one of the few wealthy Afghans willing to speak openly about the corruption that is pervasive across the country.

“I think corruption not only causes negative effects on businesses but also has a direct connection with insecurity,” he told NPR news agency in 2013.

According to Mr. Hashimy, part of the reason he wanted to own a TV station was because he could freely denounce corruption. But under Taliban rule, TV networks such as Mr Hashhimy’s 1TV channel face an uncertain future.

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A Canadian soldier asks an Afghan man about the Taliban’s activities in Panjwaii district, Kandahar province through an interpreter in 2007. Photo: John Cotter

In July, this millionaire told the newspaper Wall Street Journal he was looking to broadcast from outside Afghanistan.

The most recent broadcast posted to 1TV’s YouTube channel was on August 14, the day before the Taliban took over the capital, Kabul. The whereabouts of Mr Hashhimy are unknown. CNBC contacted his company to request an interview but no one responded.

According to a Pentagon analysis, 40% of the $108 billion the Defense Department paid to contractors in Afghanistan between 2010 and 2012 ended up in the hands of the Taliban, the Haqqani Islamic terrorist network, the organized crime chains, transnational drug traffickers or corrupt Afghan officials.

But veterans reveal that behind these statistics may be a much darker and more complex reality.

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Many local lords would ensure the safety of convoys along the supply route if paid for. Photo: Reuters

In Afghanistan, roads are often controlled by tribal warlords. These lords would charge a fee to ensure the safe transport of necessary supplies and rescue overland for American soldiers. In areas controlled by the Taliban, this means paying the Taliban a fee. If they don’t pay, it’s almost certain that soldiers and contractors will be seriously harmed.

Of all the ways American money travels in Afghanistan, there’s one it never gets to: the pockets of the country’s poorest citizens.

After two decades of reconstruction and $2.1 trillion spent, the economic situation of ordinary Afghans has barely changed. According to the World Bank, Afghanistan is the sixth poorest country in the world in 2020 and this ranking has remained essentially unchanged since 2002. Per capita income is only 500 USD.

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