Thursday, June 9, 2011

3 Cents on the Dollar

"Our truth is an ancient one; that love endures and overcomes; that hatred destroys; that what is obtained by love is retained, but what is obtained by hatred proves a burden." - Quaker Peace Testimony

Yesterday the Democratic staff of the Senate Foreign Relations committee issued a report Evaluating U.S. Foreign Assistance to Afghanistan. The two-year study painted a picture of poor planning and inefficiency.

Here is what they want you to know.

“Today, the United States spends more on foreign aid in Afghanistan than in any other country, including Iraq.”

“The State Department and USAID spend $320 million a month on foreign aid in Afghanistan.”

$320 million a month is a lot of money. However, compared to the money the U.S. military spends each month in Afghanistan ($10 billion) is translates to 3 cents on the dollar.

3 Cents on the Dollar

It’s no wonder the State Department continues to abandon needs based goals, benchmarks and expectations as they focus on supporting the military strategy.

Our strategy is ‘‘far from an exercise in nation-building’’ because it aims ‘‘to achieve realistic progress in critical areas’’ and is aligned with our security objectives.
- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (from the report)

The U.S. goal in Afghanistan was merely to help the Afghans create a “good-enough government,” not necessarily a model democracy. “We’re not out to, clearly, create a shining city on a hill…”
- Ryan C. Crocker (nominee for Ambassador to Afghanistan) in Senate confirmation hearings yesterday (8 June 2011)

The key point in the report is a World Bank estimate that “97 percent of Afghanistan’s gross domestic product (GDP) is derived from spending related to the international military and donor community presence.”

The government of Afghanistan has annual revenues of roughly $2.5 billion. Roughly what we spend in one week on the war.

It’s an unimaginable level of influence that can create dependence. One example is the pressure to create an Afghan security apparatus in the image of an occupation force. A strategy that will make Afghan-led efforts towards security based of dialogue, disarmament, and reconciliation more difficult.

The report rightly warns of this dependence

“These are daunting tasks. Analysts estimate that it could cost between $6 and $8 billion a year alone to sustain the Afghan National Security Forces, depending on the final size of the force. Without significant domestic revenue generation, the Afghan state will not be self-sufficient for decades and donors, particularly the United States, will have to bear the costs.”

Additional Resources:

Robert Dreyfuss has a nice summary on his blog

'Economic Depression' Looms in Afghanistan (Al Jazeera)

Warlord, Inc.: Extortion and Corruption Along the U.S. Supply Chain in Afghanistan

Report of the Majority Staff
Rep. John F. Tierney, Chair
Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs
Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
U.S. House of Representatives
June 2010

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Afghanistan 101 is a blog of the American Friends Service Committee
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