A $10 million U.S. taxpayer-funded project to provide Afghan women with jobs in embroidery was deemed a failure this year, shortly before Afghanistan fell to the Taliban this month.

The Goldozi Project failed to even come close to any of its job creation goals, achieving “minimal results,” according to the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR)’s June evaluation of the project’s progress. “Goldozi” is the Persian word for embroidery.

The job creation project began in 2018 when the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) awarded U.S.- based non-profit Family Health International a four-year $9.7 million agreement to implement it.

The initiative began with several goals, including generating revenue and sustainable jobs in Afghanistan’s embroidery industry and increasing exports of embroidered products. The initial target was to provide new or better employment for 15,500 Afghans. This included 500 new sales agent jobs and improving 15,000 existing embroiderer jobs by developing sustainable employment in the industry, including increasing incomes.

None of those goals were met.

In its three years, the Goldozi Project trained 140 certified sales agents, short of its target of 430 agents. The project provided new or better employment to only 870 program participants, 80 percent short of its target. The project was supposed to make $16.2 million in sales by April of next year but generated only $361,463 in total sales.

Perhaps most striking, SIGAR found that “the project never had a year in which it reported improved incomes for program participants,” and by October 2020, “the overall incomes of participating embroiders had decreased.”

The reasons for the project’s flagging performance were “not completely clear,” but its struggles were exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, which “severely curtailed project activities” in 2020, SIGAR noted. Another contributing factor was Afghanistan’s “deteriorating economic and security conditions.”

As of June, $4.6 million in U.S.-taxpayer funds for the project remained un-disbursed.

John Sopko, the SIGAR, recommended that USAID consider “withholding or delaying future funding disbursements” until the agency can determine whether to continue funding the project, “potentially saving $4.6 million in U.S. taxpayer funds.”

Tina Dooley-Jones, USAID’s mission director for Afghanistan, ended up agreeing with SIGAR’s recommendation and admitted that the project had initially suffered from “leadership, organizational, and operational problems” that caused its performance to lag.

The U.S. government spent more than $2 trillion on the war in Afghanistan before the country fell to the Taliban this month, wiping out the progress of the last two decades of U.S. military involvement in the country.

In his 2022 budget request, President Joe Biden asked Congress for $3.33 billion for the Afghan army as well as $364 million in civilian assistance. Those funds would come in addition to about $6.68 billion already appropriated but not yet disbursed for Afghanistan, SIGAR said.

However, Biden made his budget request in May, before the situation in Afghanistan had deteriorated so drastically, and it is unclear whether the president still wants Congress to approve those funds.

Meanwhile, the Biden administration continues to struggle to evacuate Americans stranded in Afghanistan as the Taliban tightens its grip on the country.

A Taliban spokesman on Monday vowed “consequences” if the U.S. attempts to extend its evacuation of Americans and Afghan allies beyond the end of the month.

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