Despite being involved in the US’s longest ever “War” in Afghanistan; it seems that the US taxpayer has been paying over $160 million to ensure that the Afghan government can raise enough tax revenue to cover its expenses.
One of Afghanistan’s largest revenue systems is the Customs tariffs; which until US intervention was a cash-based system open to corruption. However, with US taxpayer’s help, this has been updated to an electronic operation which is designed to help the government collect all monies owed.
The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) working with USAID was tasked “To help combat the issues related to the endemic corruption that has plagued the Afghan government’s cash-based customs payment system,” after it was discovered that “the current cash-based payment system is inefficient, leaves customs brokers vulnerable to theft, and increases the opportunities for corruption to occur within the customs process.”
Critics of the program have two main complaints. The first being that the US is involved in this project at all. Secondly, that the project is a “complete waste of American money.”
Results show that the program has been singularly ineffective at actually raising funds:
Although the program is expected to collect 75 percent of all customs duties electronically by the end of November 2017, “our review found that by the end of December 2016, less than 1% (.59%) of all custom duty collections were being collected electronically,” according to the inspector general.
It appears unlikely that the program will do any better in the future: “Afghanistan’s projected domestic revenues for the current fiscal year  are only expected to account for about 38 percent of the Afghan government’s budgeted costs, with donors (of which the U.S. government is the largest) providing the remaining 62 percent,” points out the inspector general.
The United States has spent an estimated $714 billion since hostilities began in 2001, according to the SIGAR report. Much of this has been lost to waste, fraud and abuse according to John Sopko, the SIGAR Chief: “the U.S. government had mismanaged so much money in Afghanistan, it is nearly impossible to estimate what percentage of the nearly $117 billion the United States has spent on reconstruction efforts can be deemed waste, fraud, and abuse.”
President Trump’s recent speech outlining his Afghanistan policy tied withdrawal from the conflict to “conditions” on the ground. Being both a critic of foreign entanglements and artificial public timelines, the President’s policy does not make clear how much longer US involvement in Afghanistan will continue.
Though the speech did not specifically address the financial concerns, his agenda clearly revolves around getting the United States’ fiscal house in order. From tax cuts and repatriation to repeal and replace of Obamacare and the border wall, saving taxpayers’ money appears to be central to the President’s agenda. However, as of now, no clear strategy is in place to stop spending US money on wasteful projects in Afghanistan.