Two years ago, as the final pieces of the Obama administration’s troop surge were moving into place in southern Afghanistan, American officials identified a handful of infrastructure projects that they hoped would build popular support for the Afghan government in the Taliban’s heartland.

The Pentagon and State Department secured $400 million from Congress for what was christened the Afghanistan Infrastructure Fund and drew up plans for seven projects, five of them aimed at increasing the electricity supply in southern Afghanistan to light shops and power factories. The projects were to be completed by mid-2013, just as the NATO combat mission was to wind dow

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