A stunning new report, released today, by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, “Evaluating U.S. Foreign Assistance to Afghanistan,” concludes that the American nation-building project in Afghanistan is a house of cards. You can read the whole report here.
It suggests that the avalanche of mostly US financial aid to Afghanistan has not created the foundation for anything that can last. So overwhelming is American assistance that, the report says, “According to the World Bank, 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.”
You read that right. Foreign aid makes up all but three percent of Afghanistan’s entire national GDP. That’s the big picture, in which a smaller snapshot is that the enormously expensive Afghan military and police forces being built with U.S. assistance can’t possibly be sustained without American support that will literally be endless.
The report adds:
“Most US aid bypasses the Afghan Government in favor of international firms. This practice can weaken the ability of the Afghan state to execute its budget, lead to redundant and unsustainable donor projects, and fuel corruption.”
That’s an understatement, of course. It’s long been known that a parasitical, corrupt network of Afghans dependent on U.S. largesse has arisen since 2001. The report notes that the so-called Performance-Based Governors Fund forks over as much as $100,000 a year to individuals in Afghanistan’s poverty-stricken rural areas.
The report also raises questions about the use of cold, hard cash as part of a “counterinsurgency” strategy, the vaunted, cult-like policy adopted by General Petraeus and his counterinsurgency minions. The report suggests that evidence that such a policy works is “limited,” adding: “Some research suggests the opposite, and development best practices question the efficacy of using aid as a stabilization tool over the long run.”