The nearly $19 billion that the U.S. has already spent on foreign aid to Afghanistan and the billions more to come in the next few years could end up doing little if any long-term good unless more focused planning is done, according to a report today from the Democratic majority in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Indeed, the Democratic staff warns that because "an estimated 97 percent of Afghanistan's gross domestic product (GDP) is derived from spending related to the international military and donor community presence ... Afghanistan could suffer a severe economic depression when foreign troops leave in 2014 unless the proper planning begins now."
American assistance, the report says, must be for projects that are "necessary, achievable, and sustainable."
But at this time, it adds, "most of the funds in Afghanistan's south and east are being used for short-term stabilization programs instead of longer term development projects." And:
"Evidence that stabilization programs promote stability in Afghanistan is limited. Some research suggests the opposite, and development best practices question the efficacy of using aid as a stabilization tool over the long run. ... The unintended consequences of pumping large amounts of money into a war zone cannot be underestimated."
The report's recommendations:
— "Consider authorizing a multiyear civilian assistance strategy for Afghanistan."
— "Reevaluate the performance of stabilization programs in conflict zones."
— "Focus on sustainability. We should follow a simple rule: Donors should not implement projects if Afghans cannot sustain them."
The Washington Post, which broke the news of the report's conclusions, started its story with this:
"The hugely expensive U.S. attempt at nation-building in Afghanistan has had only limited success and may not survive an American withdrawal, according to the findings of a two-year congressional investigation to be released Wednesday."
The committee is chaired by Sen. John Kerry (D-MA). To read the report, click on the title "Afghan Report" in the box below.