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After nearly 12 years of war in Afghanistan, the U.S. still lacks a comprehensive anti-corruption strategy, according to a new report from a top government watchdog.

The report, released Wednesday by the Special Inspector General for Reconstruction in Afghanistan, criticizes the U.S. State Department for failing to develop specific benchmarks for evaluating the effectiveness of anti-corruption efforts in a country that was rated, in a tie with North Korea and Somalia, as the most corrupt country in the world in the most recent Transparency International rankings.

“We found that the U.S. anti-corruption activities in Afghanistan are not guided by a comprehensive U.S. strategy or related guidance that defines clear goals and objectives for U.S efforts to strengthen the Afghan government’s capability to combat corruption and increase accountability,” the report says.

Wednesday’s report was a follow-up to a 2010 special inspector general report that came to similar conclusions.

The State Department never finalized an anti-corruption strategy drafted in 2010, and the strategy is not being implemented, according to the report. Among the recommendations in the report are development of a “comprehensive, coordinated strategy for U.S. anti-corruption efforts, including goals, objectives, and measurable outcomes.”

In a response letter, Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Jarrett Blanc said the State Department anti-corruption efforts in Afghanistan are undertaken through three working groups, focusing on improving institutions, strengthening the financial sector and tackling corruption at border crossings.

“We agree with the importance of establishing clear objectives and benchmarks in order to measure outcomes,” the letter says. “To this end, and in response to SIGAR’s [the special inspector general’s] feedback received during the examinations for this special project report, the Embassy’s working groups are developing a targeted set of anti-corruption objectives, benchmarks, and plans against which our U.S. efforts and resources will be directed and assessed.”

Asked for comment, a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Kabul directed a Stripes reporter to Blanc’s letter.

Corruption is rife in Afghanistan, where even obtaining basic documents can involve bribes and endless hassles for citizens, and is one of the chief criticisms Afghans level against their government. Many see corruption as a boon to the still-entrenched insurgency, as anger over graft lowers support for the central government in Kabul and the Afghan military, which still faces heavy fighting with the Taliban and other armed groups.

One of the main criticisms of U.S. reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan has been lack of oversight over the tens of billions of dollars in taxpayer money spent since the U.S. invaded the country in 2001 in response to the Sept. 11 attacks. Twitter: @Druzin_Stripes


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