In an article that just might have been overshadowed by bigger news out of the “AfPak” region Sunday night, the New York Times reported on USAID’s project to build the Gardez-Khost Highway in Afghanistan. This 64-mile stretch of road meant to connect the two mountainous southeastern provinces of Paktia and Khost is shoddily constructed and incomplete after 3 years.
Not least among the problems was that construction began before the region was cleared of insurgents. “You are talking about pushing development before there’s security,” said a former American government official who was involved in the project.
“And you have military or politically driven timelines and locations which make no sense, or which force us into alliances with the very malign actors that are powerfully part of the broader battles we are fighting,” the official said. “No one steps back and looks at the whole picture.”
What is the cost of “pushing development” before security?
One answer: Although originally budgeted at $69 million, USAID has spent $121 million on the project so far, and now says it expects to spend $176 million.
Another answer: Any remaining American credibility as a development actor in Afghanistan.
A better answer:
… Despite all the money spent on security…there have been 364 attacks on the Gardez-Khost Highway, including 108 roadside bombs, resulting in the deaths of 19 people, almost all of them local Afghan workers.