Costly nation-building efforts in Afghanistan have had only limited success and might not survive the withdrawal of U.S. forces planned for 2014, according a two-year congressional study.
With the Obama administration preparing to begin its drawdown of troops in July, it must also re-examine its humanitarian assistance programs, concludes the report, prepared by the Democratic staff on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and released late Tuesday.
In all, the United States has spent $18.8 billion on aid to Afghanistan in the last decade, but the report says that without proper planning, “Afghanistan could suffer a severe economic depression when foreign troops leave in 2014 unless the proper planning begins now.”
The State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development are spending $320 million a month with a strategy aimed at redeveloping areas that have been cleared of Taliban forces. While that “win[s] hearts and minds,” the report says, the current efforts haven’t put Afghanistan on a path to sustainable redevelopment.
At the same time, the flow of cash to local governments “can fuel corruption, distort labor and goods markets, undermine the host government’s ability to exert control over resources, and contribute to insecurity,” when not matched with proper oversight. But oversight, the report says, has been limited as the U.S. programs distribute aid.
In planning for the scheduled transfer of security leadership to Afghan forces in 2014, the Obama administration needs to think ahead, the report urges. “Transition planning should find the right balance between avoiding a sudden drop-off in aid, which could trigger a major economic recession, and a long-term phase-out from current levels of donor spending,” according to the report.
Meanwhile, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said Tuesday in a Washington Post op-ed that a viable exit strategy for U.S. forces in Afghanistan must include a cease fire, the creation of a coalition government, the promise that most foreign troops leave the country and “an enforcement mechanism.”
Enforcement, he said, “is the most crucial element and the most difficult to sustain” because he expects the Taliban to try to overtake the coalition government or violate the cease fire.
For it to work, a plan for “partly regional, partly global diplomatic effort is needed to accompany direct negotiation with the Taliban,” he said. With that could come a dramatic U.S. troop drawdown in the next 18 months to two years and a “sustainable” future for Afghanistan.
The Gazette now offers Facebook Comments on its stories. You must be logged into your Facebook account to add comments. If you do not want your comment to post to your personal page, uncheck the box below the comment. Comments deemed offensive by the moderators will be removed, and commenters who persist may be banned from commenting on the site.