The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has spent $280 million on a program intended to help tens of thousands of Afghan women enter the country's work force and gain promotions since the commencement of the program in 2015.
The Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR) says in a new report that the program has helped somewhere between no women and roughly 60.
USAID’s "Promote" program is the agency's "largest women's empowerment program in (USAID) history," according to the program's website.
It was supposed to train Afghan women to enter the private and public sectors, and then help them become eligible for promotions in their fields. And it was intended to extend those training and hiring benefits to 75,000 Afghan women.
But SIGAR found that in the three years since 2015, the number of women who found "new or better" employment was closer to 55.
SIGAR said that it could not conclusively credit the women’s successes to the program.
SIGAR also said that it is unclear whether or not the Afghan government will choose to support the program as the Afghan government might not be able to hire all of Promote's graduates.
It is also unclear whether the graduates will obtain jobs in the private sector in large numbers due to the country's low projected economic growth rate, the SIGAR report said.
Quoted by The New York Times, John Sopko, head of SIGAR, said that women's groups found the program to be "poorly designed and oversold." The program is scheduled to end in 2020, giving it only two years to meet its goal.
Despite the SIGAR report, USAID maintains that the program "directly benefited 50,000 Afghan women with the training and support they need to engage in advocacy for women's issues, enter the work force and start their own businesses."
The US has spent $126 billion on reconstruction efforts since 2002.
Some of the projects that contributed to this high figure included a $43 million gas station, a $456,669 firing range that "began to disintegrate" due to poor construction and "substandard bricks and other building materials," a $60 million Marriott that was "uninhabited and uninhabitable," and a $60 million power-transmission project that cannot operate due to a lack of a power source, the SIGAR report said.
The Afghan First Lady’s Office told TOLOnews that the Promote program is not run by the office.
The office said that the First Lady Rula Ghani has told SIGAR that a big part of the Promote budget is spent on salaries of foreign employees of the program.