Should the US adopt a 'Colombia standard' of success in Afghanistan?
Measuring success in Afghanistan on Afghans' ability to fight their own conflicts may appeal, but a 'Plan Afghanistan' would still be far more costly – and less successful – than Colombia's, argues blogger James Bosworth.
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But here's the rest of the paragraph from O'Hanlon and Wolfowitz:Skip to next paragraph
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Afghanistan will need that even more. With a desperately poor economy (one-sixteenth the size of Colombia's), Afghanistan cannot sustain the army it needs without help. The country will need some $3 billion annually in foreign military assistance for an extended period after 2014, as well as a continuing military presence in the range of 10,000 U.S. and other NATO troops in a supporting role.
Look at those numbers. $3 billion in military assistance plus 10,000 troops (plus how many contractors?) on top of the money spent over the past decade. That's five to ten times the size of Plan Colombia in any given year. They are recommending a "post-war" spending package of more money on security aid in Afghanistan than the US spends in the entire Western Hemisphere today. They are recommending far more US troops deployed in Afghanistan than the US uses to train and support all the military and police in this hemisphere.
IN PICTURES: Far from home: US soldiers serving in Afghanistan
The military aid package suggested by O'Hanlon and Wolfowitz is only "limited" in comparison with the war-level spending in Afghanistan over the past decade. It is still far more costly than Plan Colombia, less likely to succeed, and without a plan to reduce that level to a more reasonable support package at any point in the future. In terms of Afghanistan, the right lessons from Plan Colombia are to look at the self-imposed limitations on aid, leaving the US in a supporting role while Colombia led the fight. Afghanistan is not going to lead on its own security if the US doesn't limit its own involvement.
Now go back to a fact I put in the first paragraph: Colombia still has a higher homicide rate than Afghanistan. So do the parts of Central America, the Caribbean and Mexico most heavily affected by the criminal groups.
Budgeting is about priorities. That $3 billion and 10,000 troop plan proposed by O'Hanlon and Wolfowitz can't be analyzed in a vacuum. Spending more on security in Afghanistan than we spend on all of Latin America and the Caribbean seems to me to be a poor use of limited resources moving forward. There is a need in this hemisphere, the money spent is more effective and the direct impact on US security and prosperity is likely greater. That's one more factor to consider as the US plans a more "limited scale" of aid to Afghanistan.
--- James Bosworth is a freelance writer and consultant who runs Bloggings by Boz.
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