The ultimate point of failure for our efforts, you know, wasn’t an insurgency. It was the weight of endemic corruption. — Ryan Crocker, a two-time U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan
The ultimate point of failure for our efforts, you know, wasn’t an insurgency. It was the weight of endemic corruption. — Ryan Crocker, a two-time U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan
‘9/11 millionaires’ and mass corruption: How American money helped break Afghanistan
  • In the 20 years since 9/11, the United States has spent more than $2 trillion waging war and nation-building in Afghanistan.
  • That money has helped create a tiny class of young, ultra-rich Afghans, many of whom made their fortunes as government contractors.
  • But over time, these contracts helped fuel a system of mass corruption that engulfed the country and, eventually, doomed its fragile democracy.
$290 million every day for 7,300 days. That’s how much money America spent on 20 years of war and nation-building in Afghanistan, according to Brown University’s Costs of War project.

Yet it took just nine days for the Taliban to seize every provincial capital, dissolve the army and overthrow the U.S.-backed government in August.

... But the hundreds of billions of dollars that the United States spent waging its war on Afghan soil can still be seen across Afghanistan, for better and worse.

Abandoned air bases, half-finished construction projects and tens of thousands of untraceable guns litter the countryside, all purchased with American money.

U.S. dollars also created the “9/11 millionaires,” a tiny class of young, ultra-wealthy Afghans who made their fortunes working as contractors for the foreign armies.

A few of these millionaires became role models for a new generation of Afghan entrepreneurs and philanthropists.

But many more exploited their family ties to government officials or provincial warlords in order to secure lucrative contracts.

Over time, U.S. government contracts became the fuel for a system of mass corruption that engulfed the country and, eventually, doomed its fragile democracy.

“The ultimate point of failure for our efforts, you know, wasn’t an insurgency,” said Ryan Crocker, a two-time U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan in 2016. “It was the weight of endemic corruption.”

The United States, in Crocker’s view, bears responsibility for much of the corruption in Afghanistan because it flooded the country with billions of dollars more than its economy could absorb.


“You just cannot put those amounts of money into a very fragile state and society, and not have it fuel corruption,” said Crocker. “You just can’t.”

... According to a Pentagon analysis, 40% of the $108 billion that the Defense Department paid to contractors in Afghanistan between 2010 and 2012 ended up in the hands of either the Taliban, the violent Islamist Haqqani terror network, organized crime rings, transnational drug traffickers or corrupt Afghan officials.

But veterans of the conflict say statistics like these can obscure what was in reality a more complicated and ethically murky situation.

In a country where roads are often controlled by tribal warlords, transporting necessary and lifesaving supplies overland to American soldiers often requires paying fees for safe passage to whichever group controls the roads. In areas of the country controlled by the Taliban, this means paying the Taliban.

Refusing to pay the warlords who controlled the roads would have almost certainly meant grave harm for soldiers and contractors.

“You could be hardcore about stuff and say, ‘We’re not going to pay nobody,’ but, I’m telling you, you were going to get hit on the road,” Rodney Castleman, an American employee of an Afghan trucking company, told The New Yorker.

Security trumped everything else, and the contractors who delivered goods intact and on time could charge the government whatever they wanted.

To some American officials, paying off a local strongman to guarantee safe passage seemed more reasonable than paying an American defense contractor to bomb their way across the country.
Read the full article: https://www.cnbc.com/2021/09/10/9/11-millionaires-and-corruption-how-us-money-helped-break-afghanistan.html