Washington DC- Amid new concerns, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), a member of the National Security Working Group, has sent a letter to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) pressing the Administration for answers on the progress of programs designed to aid Afghan women and girls. Recent reporting has brought into question the number of Afghan girls attending schools and the quality of the infrastructure of those schools, among other concerns. In his letter to Larry Sampler, Assistant to the Administrator for Afghanistan and Pakistan Affairs, Casey called for a fresh review of the programs and for the Administration to provide metrics to gauge effectiveness.
“This comes down to one word, accountability,” U.S. Senator Bob Casey said. “Our nation made a promise to lift up millions of women and girls in Afghanistan through education and increased rights. As our nation draws down from Afghanistan, those promises cannot be forgotten. The American taxpayer has invested significant resources in these efforts and the Administration has an obligation to ensure those dollars are used in an efficient and effective manner. Thanks to investment from US taxpayers through USAID and other development programs, the Afghan people have made tremendous gains, particularly in the areas of health and education, over the past 13 years."
The full text of Casey’s letter can be seen below:
August 6, 2015
Mr. Larry Sampler
Assistant to the Administrator for Afghanistan and Pakistan Affairs
U.S. Agency for International Development
1300 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20004
Dear Mr. Sampler:
Since 2001, American servicemembers have made tremendous sacrifices to support the Afghan people in their pursuit of a secure, stable, and prosperous country. American taxpayers have also made significant investments in this effort, including through USAID development programs. Following the political and security transitions in Afghanistan, we need to take steps to ensure that the gains the Afghan people, especially women and girls, have made are not lost.
I write to ask for additional information about the way that current and future USAID assistance programs will be monitored and evaluated, especially in light of the drawdown of U.S. and coalition forces. It is my understanding that the current security situation has restricted the ability of U.S. direct hire personnel to physically access and assesses development programs in some areas of Afghanistan. What steps is USAID taking to ensure that program monitors and evaluators can gain the information they need to evaluate a program in a reduced mobility environment? What technological means of monitoring can be employed to ensure U.S. personnel based in Kabul are receiving accurate and timely reports from staff or contractors in remote areas?
Young Afghans have gained significantly more access to higher-quality educational opportunities, in large part due to U.S. investment in this sector. I was particularly disturbed to learn of a recent Buzzfeed investigation that indicated that some U.S.-built schools have fallen into disuse and disrepair. It is my understanding that U.S. assistance programs in the education sector have shifted away from infrastructure development to a focus on improving the quality of education and capacity building with the Ministry of Education. When infrastructure projects like these schools are transferred to the Government of Afghanistan, it is vital that USAID continually press the appropriate ministries to ensure these investments are being maintained and used properly. What mechanisms does USAID have to monitor the status of infrastructure projects once they are transferred to the Government of Afghanistan? How is monitoring and evaluation of current USAID-funded education programs, including support for teacher salaries and capacity building support to the Ministry of Education, conducted?
I am also concerned about allegations in the Buzzfeed report regarding the estimates of how many students, especially female students, are enrolled and attending school in Afghanistan. I ask for your most recent assessment of the enrollment figures, disaggregated by gender and province if possible, and the methodology by which you reached this conclusion.
The recent introduction of the Afghanistan Accountability Act, of which I am a cosponsor, is an indication that my concerns about the future of our assistance programs in Afghanistan are shared by other members of Congress. Sustaining and building upon our significant investment will require rigorous evaluation, transparency, and an ongoing conversation with stakeholders about what is working, and what is not.
Thank you for your leadership, and I look forward to working with you on this important issue.