WASHINGTON – Rebuilding Afghanistan will be difficult, and proper scrutiny of the $32 billion and counting being invested in reconstruction by the U.S. will require additional staff and funding, according to the new inspector general in charge of the audits.
In his first report to Congress, Arnold Fields, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, said that his initial audits will detail all of the funding provided to date: the projects that have been approved, where they stand now, and any early indications of fraud or waste.
Fields, a retired major general in the Marine Corps, warned in his opening memo that rebuilding war-torn Afghanistan will be "exceedingly difficult and complex," since the country has "no substantial natural resources, a population devastated by decades of war and an ongoing insurgency." The report was obtained Friday by The Associated Press ahead of its public release.
Congress approved the creation of the new SIGAR office, which mirrors one that was set up to oversee Iraq reconstruction spending and has routinely found glaring examples of fraud and waste.
Since 2001, the U.S. has provided about $32 billion for humanitarian aid and reconstruction in Afghanistan, while other nations have contributed an additional $25.3 billion.
To date, 21 staff have been hired for the new auditing effort, but Fields said that a minimum of 90 employees will be needed. The bulk of those will be in the Washington, D.C. region, but more than 30 would do tours of up to 13 months in Afghanistan, collecting data and information.
Congress initially authorized $20 million for the new Afghanistan auditing effort, but to date has only appropriated about $16 million.