The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

The Kabul Grand Hotel: it sounds like the setting of a movie, the backdrop for international intrigue and failed ambitions.

But the hotel is not a Hollywood fabrication. It exists, although it isn’t open for business. It’s a shell, an abandoned, half-built 209-room monstrosity perilously close to the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, making it a huge security risk.

So the mothballed structure must be heavily guarded, courtesy of U.S. taxpayers.

It was supposed to be a Marriott, but the hotel giant cut ties with the project, citing security concerns. And now a U.S. government oversight agency has issued a report on the rebuilding efforts in Afghanistan accusing the project’s minders of allowing a default on $85 million in loans.

The Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction functions like an auditing agency for what could be considered the Marshall Plan of Afghanistan. SIGAR provides a constant drip of reports chronicling the struggles, few successes and abject failures, such as the hotel and the luxury apartments that were supposed to be built next to it. The loans were made by the Overseas Private Investment Corp., a government financing agency that uses private funds to finance development abroad. OPIC has stated that it continues to seek a resolution on the loans.

The hotel and the apartment complex were intended to provide Afghans jobs, and to house diplomats, investors and others who would be part of strengthening Afghanistan after our troops and coalition forces pulled out.

The SIGAR report showed pictures of the properties, missing walls and windows, along with furnished model rooms, covered in dust and lacking electricity, water or other utilities. The promised August 2013 opening of the apartment building was termed “blatantly false and unrealistic.” Like so many projects SIGAR investigated, this one was plagued by waste and fraud, compounded by lack of oversight.

More than a year ago, SIGAR Special Inspector General John F. Sopko warned, “Afghanistan’s problems extend far beyond its borders, and we ignore them at our peril.”

Afghans were one-quarter of the million migrants and refugees moving across Europe in 2015, leaving because of the lack of jobs and insecurity in their homeland. That ought to remind us how important it is to get these national reconstruction projects right, and what happens when they fail.

This latest SIGAR report comes at a crucial time. As Donald Trump prepares to take over the presidency, it remains to be seen whether he will take interest in such rebuilding efforts. His isolationist campaign rhetoric suggests that he will not.

The same day the SIGAR report was released, outgoing President Barack Obama was meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin.

In a news conference after the meeting, Obama explained America’s ongoing mission in places around the world like Afghanistan. The United States is “the voice that insists on rules and norms governing international affairs, the voice that helps to steer the world away from war wherever possible; that’s our voice more often than not,” Obama said. “And we’re not always successful, but if that voice is absent or divided, we will live in a meaner, harsher and more troubled world.”

There is a moral lesson that accompanies Afghanistan. And it should be heeded by those who would prefer the U.S. wash its hands of such complicated efforts, favoring an America-first or -only premise. Consider how our military landed back in Afghanistan. And that more than 2,300 U.S. soldiers died there, with an additional 20,000 wounded. The bloodshed continues, too.

For nearly 10 years in the 1980s, the U.S. backed Afghanistan as it fought the Soviet Union. But when the Soviets pulled out, the U.S. lost interest in the country and did not take as active role a role as it should have in reconstructing the war-torn country. The vacuum proved to be fertile ground for the Taliban.

We know what happened next: It sheltered the terrorists who masterminded the attacks in the U.S. that killed nearly 3,000 people on Sept. 11, 2001.

The role of the U.S. as a force to help stabilize nations is central to battling global terrorism. It needs to continue, in concert with other allies. A lesson of the Kabul Grand Hotel is that we don’t pay enough attention to what we’re doing in these state-building efforts. We must not give in to those who say we should just close up shop and leave Afghanistan to its own devices. Rather, we have to make all our efforts and resources count.

Mary Sanchez: 816-234-4752, msanchez@kcstar.com, @msanchezcolumn

Advertising

Start your day with National Memo Newsletter

Know first.

The opinions that matter. Delivered to your inbox every morning

New Poll Reveals Problems For Trump--And His Party

Image via Twitter

A year after former President Donald Trump left the White House and Joe Biden was sworn in as president of the United States, Trump continues to have considerable influence in the Republican Party. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a former Trump critic turned Trump sycophant, recently told Fox News that having a “working relationship” with Trump must be a litmus test for anyone in a GOP leadership role in Congress. But an NBC News poll, conducted in January 14-18, 2022, finds that many Republican voters identify as Republicans first and Trump supporters second.

Analyzing that poll in the New York Times on January 21, reporters Leah Askarinam and Blake Hounshell, explain, “Buried in a new survey published today is a fascinating nugget that suggests the Republican Party may not be as devoted to Trump as we’ve long assumed. Roughly every month for the last several years, pollsters for NBC News have asked: ‘Do you consider yourself to be more of a supporter of Donald Trump or more of a supporter of the Republican Party?’ Over most of that time, Republicans have replied that they saw themselves as Trump supporters first.”

Keep reading... Show less

Ivanka Trump Testifying To January ^ Committee Is Vital

Image via @Huffington Post

As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s select committee on the January 6, 2021 insurrection moves along, it is examining Ivanka Trump’s actions that day — especially the former White House senior adviser urging her father, then- President Donald Trump, to call off his supporters when the U.S. Capitol Building was under attack. This week, Ivanka Trump’s importance to the committee is the focus of a column by liberal Washington Post opinion writer Greg Sargent and an article by blogger Marcy Wheeler.

Sargent notes that the committee’s “new focus on Ivanka Trump” shows that it “is developing an unexpectedly comprehensive picture of how inextricably linked the violence was to a genuine plot to thwart a legitimately elected government from taking power.”

Keep reading... Show less
x
{{ post.roar_specific_data.api_data.analytics }}