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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

EXCLUSIVE: Confidential U.S. assessments show Afghanistan not ready to govern on own -- State Department tries to hide risks of corruption -- By Guy Taylor, The Washington Times

Confidential U.S. assessments, which the State Department tried to hide from the public, show nearly all Afghan Cabinet ministries are woefully ill-prepared to govern after the U.S. withdraws its troops, often describing the gaps in knowledge, capability and safeguards as "critical" and describing an infrastructure in danger of collapsing if left to its own accord.

The State Department USAID reports, obtained by The Washington Times, paint a sobering portrait about the impact of the billions of dollars the U.S. has spent on nation-building over the past decade.

Treated as a whole, the reports suggest that the U.S. spending has yet to create a sustainable civilian government in Afghanistan and, in some cases, has been diverted to corrupt politicians or extremists looking to destabilize the country.

USAID officials told The Times on Tuesday that the risks of corruption and waste associated with trying to develop a government in Afghanistan have long been known and that U.S. taxpayers must be patient before they see further returns on their aid investments.

Americans need to appreciate that the Afghan government ministries hardly existed a dozen years ago, said the officials, who argued that the government has progressed dramatically over the years — giving all the more reason for Washington now to ensure that the gains are not lost and U.S. national security hurt during the years ahead.

Further, USAID spokesman Matt Herrick told The Times that "we strongly reject all claims that we have improperly withheld information."

"USAID takes very seriously its obligation to share information about its operations with Congress, auditors and the public," Mr. Herrick said.

But questions remain about precisely why the secret assessments, which were conducted by USAID officials in 2012 and 2013 and are known in foreign aid circles as "Stage II Risk Assessment Reports," are just coming to light.

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