By Kevin Sieff
Copyright 2014 The Washington Post
SAYEDABAD, Afghanistan — They look like victims of an insurgent attack — their limbs in need of amputation, their skulls cracked — but the patients who pour daily into the Ghazni Provincial Hospital are casualties of another Afghan crisis.
They are motorists who drove on the road network built by the U.S. government and other Western donors — a $4 billion project that was once a symbol of promise in post-Taliban Afghanistan but is now falling apart.
Western officials say the Afghan government is unable to maintain even a fraction of the roads and highways constructed since 2001, when the country had less than 50 miles of paved roads. The deterioration has hurt commerce and slowed military operations. In many places, the roads once deemed the hallmark of America's development effort have turned into death traps, full of cars careening into massive bomb-blast craters or sliding off crumbling pavement.
"There's been nothing. No maintenance," said a U.S. official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to discuss the issue publicly.
Since 2012, the United States has refused to fund the Afghan government's road maintenance projects because it has no faith in the country's ability to perform even simple tasks, such as dispatching a contractor to fill in a pothole or repaving a stretch of highway.
Despite those concerns, the U.S. government is still building new roads in Afghanistan, multimillion-dollar projects whose funds were allocated years ago.