Has Aid to Afghanistan Been Wasted?

| Mon Jul. 30, 2012 9:57 AM EDT

Rajiv Chandrasekaran reports on the latest from Afghanistan:

A U.S. initiative to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on construction projects in Afghanistan, originally pitched as a vital tool in the military campaign against the Taliban, is running so far behind schedule that it will not yield benefits until most U.S. combat forces have departed the country, according to a government inspection report to be released Monday.

The report, by the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, also concludes that the Afghan government will not have the money or skill to maintain many of the projects, creating an “expectations gap” among the population that could harm overall stabilization efforts.

....The latest report adds new weight to the argument — voiced by independent development specialists and even a few government officials — that the United States attempted to build too much in a country with limited means to assume responsibility for those projects.

I'm genuinely puzzled here. I thought this was a lesson we had learned by the 70s. Giant infrastructure projects that can't be maintained by the local workforce are not only useless, they're counterproductive. Aid needs to be provided on a scale that's sustainable locally. How is it that we seem to have forgotten this?