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Written by: Diana West
Tuesday, January 04, 2011 8:08 AM 

If the GOP is serious about waste, fraud and abuse -- and reckless childishness -- Congress needs to ask Gen. Petraeus some questions  about the CERF -- the Commander's Emergency Relief Fund. Two billion dollars, they say, have gone down this particular chute to nowhere in Afghanistan alone. as American soldies have handed out money for 16,000 goody bags -- sorry,  "humanitarian projects" -- over the past six years. That comes to more than seven such projects per day, bribes large and small to make them, please, please, like us & not their Muslim brethren the Taliban and other Koranically-correect jihad groups.

This may seem like small change in a war that costs $350 million a day, but the fallacy of CERF is the same fallacy of COIN: that turning the Afghan peoples into allies is a matter of demonstrating what we "infidels" think of as good intentions, that enough greasing of enough wheels is a strategy, that we can create a functional society from public make-works, that Western ways can be grafted onto Islamic culture, that what egg-heads think of as "nation-building" is Afghanistan is possible in the first place.

The Washington Post has the latest iteration of this story today here, but we've been through it before, back in 2008 here with the CERF-surge in Iraq, whose costs bring the CERF program totals up to $5 billion. And counting.

From today's story:

A report slated for release this month reveals that CERP projects can quickly slide into neglect after being transferred to Afghan control.

What else is new?

The Afghans had problems maintaining about half of the 69 projects reviewed in eastern Laghman province, according to an audit by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

The spending in Afghanistan is part of the $5 billion provided to U.S. military commanders for projects in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2004. The new report is the latest to identify shortcomings and missteps in the program, whose ventures have included the Jadriyah Lake park in Iraq, planned as a water park but now barren two years after a U.S. military inauguration ceremony.

The dilapidated projects in Afghanistan could present a challenge to the U.S. strategy of shifting more responsibility to Afghans. Investing in infrastructure, notes President Obama's December review of the war, "will give the Afghan government and people the tools to build and sustain a future of stability."

"Sustainment is one of the biggest issues with our whole strategy," said a civilian official who shared details from a draft of the report. "The Afghans don't have the money or capacity to sustain much." The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the Defense Department is preparing a response to the audit.

Photos in the report show washed-out roads, with cracks and potholes where improvised explosive devices can be hidden. Among the projects profiled is a re-dredged canal that filled with silt a month after opening.

Multiple reports by the Government Accountability Office have noted a lack of monitoring by the Pentagon. And because formal U.S. oversight stops after a project is turned over to Afghans, it is difficult to gauge how projects are maintained countrywide.

When asked whether the Afghans have trouble sustaining projects, the U.S. military issued a statement saying it does not have the information to provide an immediate answer.

Hmm. Maybe they could look back to Iraq. From the 2008 CERF-Iraq story:

After spending more than $270 million in CERP money on schools, hospitals and health clinics, the U.S. government cannot say how many are in use and how many have been abandoned or attacked again, according to the Government Accountability Office.

One Ramadi health-care clinic became an al-Qaeda weapons cache, according to a senior officer in the region, whose unit found enough small arms, machine guns, IED components, rocket-propelled grenades and mortar rounds at the clinic to fill a small SUV. In Baghdad, soldiers recently hired Iraqis to rebuild a school in the violent Dora neighborhood for the third time after it was repeatedly attacked.

Redevelopment experts say the military is ill-equipped to check in on how CERP projects are sustained.

Of course they are. It's. Not. Their. Job.

The Pentagon has addressed the issue in recent changes to CERP regulations. Among the changes: Requiring commanders to have a "formal, highly visible transfer" of projects to Iraqi control. A May update to the "Money as a Weapon System" manual tells commanders to work directly with the local government to guarantee that Iraq will accept the work once it's done.

The problem is persistent. Earlier this year, in the northern province of Irbil, two schools reviewed by the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction included no provision for handover to the provincial government.

Last year, auditors found that a water treatment plant near Mosul that had been repaired with $237,000 in CERP funds and then transferred to the local government was not working months later because it had no electricity.

At a sewage treatment plant in Baghdad, the inspector general's auditors found that when a new U.S. commander arrived in the area and discovered that the plant had no power, he would use CERP money to pay for a generator. That happened three times.

How long does it take?

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