USAID in Afghanistan: A judgment call

USAID Mission Director to Afghanistan Ken Yamashita. Photo by: U.S. Embassy Kabul Afghanistan / CC BY-ND

The latest quarterly report of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan’s Reconstruction to the U.S. Congress said part of the $400 million the United States spent on infrastructure projects in 2011 was wasted because of poor planning, coordination and execution.

So what is the U.S. Agency for International Development doing to address these problems?

“I can absolutely guarantee one thing, and that’s that [the way we operate is] going to be very different,” USAIDMission Director to Afghanistan Ken Yamashita told Stars and Stripes, adding a caveat, “I’ll hesitate if you ask me how different.”

The SIGAR report was not the first to note problems regarding U.S. infrastructure projects in Afghanistan. Last year, a report from the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee recommended that instead of focusing on volume, the United States should invest in fewer but high-impact projects that are easy to implement, James Dorsey in a Devex article. But donor strategy also needs to shift from doing quick-impact projects to those that yield long-term benefits, Dorsey adds.

Deciding on which type of project to pursue, however, boils down to “a judgment call.”

“Is it the road of tomorrow that lasts 10 to 15 years … or do you just build the road that’s needed for the next three years? I don’t think there’s a good answer to that,” Yamashita said.

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About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.

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