Alex Thier, the official in charge of the scandal-racked USAID mission in Afghanistan, is being promoted. That is the stunning news from Washington, D.C. Mr. Thier is currently the Assistant to the Administrator for the Office of Afghanistan and Pakistan Affairs at the U.S. Agency for International Development. His new job will be as a Deputy Assistant Administrator in charge of USAID’s Bureau for Policy, Planning and Learning.
The seemingly endless list of audit reports that revealed that USAID programs in Afghanistan are ineffective and waste billions in taxpayer funds, has had no impact on USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah. Not only has Mr. Shah refused to impose accountability on any culpable official, but he continues to promote them. Alex Thier is but the latest example.
Journalist Rajiv Chandrasekaran extensively investigated USAID failures in Afghanistan. He gave an example to PBS’ Newswatch. In 2010, USAID attempted to spend $4 billion in Afghanistan. Mr. Chandrasekaran likened the spending spree to USAID, “carpet-bombing the country with money.” This enormous infusion of money distorted the local economy, fostered dependency on foreign aid and began a rash of capital construction projects that the Afghans lacked the resources to maintain. U.S. taxpayer funds were not simply wasted, but they helped to undermine the economy, made matters worse and aided the enemy.
This was confirmed by the Kabul Press, which for years has been reporting on USAID road construction projects, which created hundreds of kilometers of cheap asphalt roads that are already crumbling because the Afghan government has neither the infrastructure nor the budget necessary to maintain such a roadway system. These roads are cheap to construct but costly to periodically resurface, a task necessary every four to five years.
Mr. Thier has displayed no appreciation for the hardships that most Americans have to endure in order to pay their income taxes. He has failed to oversee the spending of taxpayer funds in an efficient and cost-effective manner. The idea seemed to be that the more money spent, the more successful the war effort, regardless of whether most of the projects eventually failed. This bizarre strategy has no basis in reality. It also reveals a gross ignorance of Afghan society.
America, helped by the contribution of Mr. Thier, is destined to lose its war against the Taliban. The long-term cost to the American people for this adventure may eventually total $1 trillion. Total U.S. casualties, including wounded and disabled with long-term medical conditions, has already exceeded 200,000.00. The Iraq and Afghan wars have all but broken the U.S. military. Historians will likely conclude that these losses were unnecessary.
Wars have to be fought with honor, integrity and creativity, and with rapid adjustments to changing conditions. This requires brutal honesty, prompt accountability in order to remove mediocre or non-performing officials and generals, and a 100% commitment to winning (rather than a 100% commitment to making Administration officials look good). None of this has ever been evident in the U.S. war effort. This article singles out Alex Thier, but the list of other Alex Thiers is long. This was a collective leadership failure.
History may well dub Barack Obama as the “sleeping President.” Bedazzled by Hollywood and MoTown, surrounded by courtesans singing his praises, and obsessed with a poorly drafted medical plan stripped of its crucial “public option” component, he slept. During the Obama-sleep, lackluster political appointees squandered his legacy. Second-rate Generals, diplomats and intelligence officials flailed away at real and imagined enemies, billions were wasted and two wars lost. Iran and al-Qaida emerged stronger, while the U.S. economy faltered. At home, a third-rate Attorney General sat on the sidelines while unscrupulous elements within the Government, freed from Government scrutiny, repeatedly ignored the rule of law and basic civil liberties.
An emerging scandal in Massachusetts involving U.S. Department of Agriculture officials (False Claims Act prosecution, 12CV30121-MAP (D.Mass.)), threatens to be just the latest Obama Administration scandal. Its web of public corruption may reach all the way into the office of Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack.
Some day Barack Obama may emerge from his Obama-sleep, but it will be too late for Afghanistan, which hitched its horse to the wrong wagon. As for Mr. Thier, life is good for those with political connections. Failures, even those that help to lose a war, are excusable by a Government which lacks honor.