“…the United States has never really tried.”

by Joshua Foust on 3/5/2009 · 1 comment

Masood Aziz, last seen upbraiding Ann Marlowe for one of her sadly common quasi-racist rants about Afghanistan, has a new piece up at ForeignPolicy.com:

But those who say that Afghanistan can never be won ignore the fact that the United States has never really tried. If you consider all post-conflict reconstruction projects since World War II, the United Stated has by far spent the least per capita in Afghanistan. In the first two years after fighting ended in Bosnia and East Timor, the United States devoted $679 and $233 in per capita development aid respectively. In contrast, during the first two crucial years of reconstruction in Afghanistan — when a focused investment could have had significant impact — per capita development aid amounted to a mere $57. Although we can’t reclaim that window of opportunity, when we lost focus and wasted both blood and treasure, we can do better going forward.

…spending must be far more strategic and efficient than it has been in the past eight years — catering to actual needs on the ground. U.S. spending on development aid has hovered at about $1 billion a year. Yet the delivery of that money has been so inefficient that only about 30 cents of each dollar is estimated to have made it into the hands of those in need. The bulk of the aid money has disappeared in layers of subcontracting, mismanagement, and corruption. Any reduction in the serious waste in development aid and military spending would go a long way to helping stabilize the region.

I’m not sure he’s selling the virtues of a counterinsurgency campaign (which is not really practiced here) appropriately, but this largely matches with my own opinions and biases. Which doesn’t make it true, merely personally compelling. My brain is fried, so thoughts on this are greatly appreciated.


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– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from Registan.net. His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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{ 1 comment }

Lee Brasher March 6, 2009 at 1:50 am

Largely true. In the old days when I was in the Ghan, beyond the wells and the WHO missions and beyond the advanced medical assistance we submitted: what was really needed to tie the Afghanis together was a dependable electrical grid. 80-85 % of the country doesn’t have it, yet if they did, they would see the increase in productivity and in leisure time.

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