Report: US aid could be destabilizing Afghanistan in the long term
A comprehensive congressional report finds that billions of dollars of US aid could be feeding corruption and establishing programs that will collapse when the US leaves.
(Page 2 of 2)
Senator Kerry, for his part, stressed that the report is “meant to be constructive.” The study also emphasized that the committee supports President Obama’s request for foreign aid to Afghanistan.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
But that aid must be accompanied by some prudent future measures, according to the report. It suggests, for starters, stopping inflated salary payments to Afghan workers – what it called the “single most important step” to keep the inflated economy of the country from collapsing after US troop depart and foreign cash flow into the country inevitably ebbs.
The key, the report says, is to make current development funds fiscally sustainable for the Afghan government, since foreign donors currently cover “most of the costs of running the Afghan government.”
Future aid should focus heavily on building Afghan institutions such as roads and schools that the country must deliver – and can deliver, given its limited budget.
The report makes some recommendations that are likely to be less popular within the US military. In particular, it suggests that “in light of funding constraints, the State Department may want to consider a smaller footprint – a ‘civilian ebb.’ ”
Senior US military officers privately express concern that the “civilian surge” that was meant to accompany the influx of US troops into the country has largely failed to materialize and is confined largely to Kabul.
“The troop surge just has not been accompanied by the promised corresponding development and civilian surges,” says Norine MacDonald, president of the International Council on Security and Development, who is based in Lashkar Gah in the southern Afghan province of Helmand. “The gains that have been made on the battlefield are being undermined and put at risk by a lack of similar efforts in the fields of aid, development, governance, and counternarcotics.”
In a confirmation hearing Tuesday to be ambassador to Afghanistan, Ryan Crocker told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that addressing corruption, which undermines the credibility of the Afghan state, and encouraging sustainable economic development, including employment, is crucial. “Failure in some of these areas can mean failure of the state and the creation of an environment in which our strategic enemies can regroup.”
Current US aid to Afghanistan is helping in some key areas like health and education, according to the report. “Undoubtedly, we will make some progress when we are spending more than $100 billion per year in that country,” Senator Lugar said Tuesday. “The more important question is whether we have an efficient strategy for protecting our vital interests that does not involve massive open-ended expenditures.”
And also, Kerry and others note, whether Afghanistan can sustain these critical improvements long after US troops have come home.