WASHINGTON -- The State Department's internal watchdog on Wednesday criticized the agency's nearly $2 billion anti-drug effort in Afghanistan for poor oversight and lack of a long-term strategy.
The department's inspector general said the Afghanistan counter-narcotics program is hampered by too few personnel and rampant corruption among Afghan officials.
The inspector general's report also noted that despite a consensus among U.S. agencies that eradicating poppy fields is essential, the focus has shifted to interdiction of drug organizations and alternative crop projects. That shift is advocated strongly by Richard Holbrooke, the Obama administration's special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The 69-page review also said U.S. embassies in Afghanistan and Pakistan are not adequately coordinating the program's activities. It recommended that the State Department set out clear guidelines for measuring success, boost staffing and improve interagency cooperation.
"The department has not clarified an end state for counternarcotics efforts, engaged in long-term planning, or established performance measures for its multipillared approach to counter poppy cultivation and the resultant illegal narcotics industry," the report said.
Afghanistan is the world's leading producer of opium poppy and extremists use drug proceeds to finance their fight against U.S. and foreign troops.
The report also said that as the U.S. military tries to break the link between the narcotics industry and the insurgency, the State Department's role in the anti-drug effort will change and that no plans are in place to prepare for that.
"Although the department is planning new counternarcotics actions ... there is no agreement on appropriate roles for either civilian agencies or the U.S. military," it said. "The department has also failed to plan for transitioning responsibility to the Afghan government, should U.S. government funding not be sustainable at current levels."
The report allowed that the program has made "some progress" but said "successes are difficult to quantify due to imprecise measurement and transnational factors." And, it said that the department's "lack of meaningful performance measures adds to the problem."
Making matters worse is a lack of supervisory personnel to monitor $1.8 billion in counternarcotics program contracts at the U.S. embassy in Kabul, the report said. "Contract and program management is thus conducted from many thousands of miles away in a different time zone," it said.
The inspector general pointed out that an apparent disagreement between the U.S. embassies in Kabul and Islamabad contributed to poor coordination.
"This lack of cooperation is due, in part, to embassy Islamabad's conclusion that there is no connection between illicit narcotics and the insurgency in Pakistan," it said. "However, the porous border between the two countries means that actions in Afghanistan will certainly spill over into Pakistan."
"Coordination is lacking on key issues, such as increasing security along the lightly controlled, porous border between Afghanistan and Pakistan," the report said.