According to a recent report generated by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), “Afghanistan proved even more dangerous than it was a year ago” and “the Taliban now controls more territory than it has at any time since 2001.” The SIGAR report, noting the decline in both Afghan security and a peak in terrorist activity, sparked a veritable media frenzy of concern because of the vast amount of U.S. dollars being funneled into an increasingly unstable Afghanistan. According to NBC news, the U.S. has spent more than $113 billion on Afghan reconstruction, more money than was spent rebuilding Europe after WWII. And oversight officials, quoted by SIGAR, state that “billions of dollars’ worth of U.S. funded projects” cannot be monitored due to the increasingly dangerous security situation. Our inability to track funds conspicuously occurs at a time when the Afghan government has lost thirty percent of its territory to the Taliban. We do not think that this is a coincidence. Indeed, there is reason to believe that some of these untraceable U.S. funds are going straight into the hands of terrorists through U.S education subsidies.
To date, more than $1 billion has been spent on education efforts in Afghanistan. USAID alone has spent more than $750 million on constructing schools and training teachers. In their report, SIGAR’s first piece of evidence, emphasizing the decreasing situation in Afghanistan, points to an all too common money-laundering practice in the region: “ghost schools.” Ghost schools are institutions that the United States has paid for but either do not exist in reality or are empty half-finished buildings. Citing a January 2nd report from the Tolo News Organization, SIGAR notes that “millions of dollars were being embezzled while Afghanistan pays for numerous nonexistent ‘ghost’ schools, ‘ghost’ teachers, and ‘ghost’ students.” According to Tolo News, the number of students enrolled in schools has been inflated, salaries are being paid to thousands of non-existent teachers, and millions have been embezzled from American tax-payer’s dollars. Indeed, many of the ‘teachers’ are not teachers at all: “40,000 teachers, employed as such are contractors and other professions.” And more than 1,000 education projects, deemed ‘completed’ by the Ministry of Education, were not. But while news organizations cite both the SIGAR report and the Tolo News investigation as evidence of wasteful government spending, no one goes so far as to pick up on the link between the growing number of ghost schools and the rise of the Taliban, despite the fact that Tolo News provides a sliver of evidence to that effect, “the father of a suicide bomber was included in the list of teachers in the administrative structure of the ministry of education.” While this line is the only evidence pointing to the funding of terror through American taxpayer dollars, aimed at educating Afghani youth, several earlier investigative reports prove that providing U.S. money to the father of a suicide bomber is not an isolated incident.
According to a July 2015 investigative report, one out of every 12 schools in Afghanistan is a ghost school. Teacher salaries, of which two-thirds come from the World Bank, continue to go to ghost schools, and at least $12 million go to ghost teachers annually. Local officials in Afghanistan report that teacher salaries, poured into ghost schools, end up in the hands of the Taliban, brutal war lords, and strongmen: “Everyone knows the salaries of teachers come to the province and then they go to the Taliban.” In one of many examples of education funds being used to spread terror, Buzzfeed tells the story of Deh-e-Bagh Primary School which was recorded as having been built by the U.S. in 2012, and has never seen a single student: “Only partially completed in 2012, its doors never opened. There are no latrines, no running water…the building has deteriorated.” Investigations into the $200,000 construction project proved that U.S. education money for this project largely went to local strongmen and corrupt construction companies.
Another investigation, reported in June of 2015 and led by The Center for Public Integrity, proved that questionable money handling occurs even in American built schools that do exist. Nils Kauffman, a former education officer for USAID, noted that a 2011 audit of Afghanistan Technical Vocational Institute, uncovered “$118,000 in spending by the school over a five month period on weapons, international travel, and salary supplements.” Why in the world would a technical school need to spend that much money on weapons, even if the school required security? The investigation also uncovered the fact that the institute paid its employees in cash, thereby making funds untraceable. Clearly, U.S. funds to Afghanistan have been grossly mishandled, and have perhaps led to the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan. However, when U.S. funds are used to revive the terrorists we spent so much money and effort disbanding, then it’s time to pull the plug on funding.