Home > Afghanistan, Asia-Pacific, Central Asia, Conflict & Security, Editorial, Politics, USA > Imposing Peace and Prosperity on Afghanistan

Imposing Peace and Prosperity on Afghanistan

The focus on what the US and NATO could and should do in Afghanistan seems stuck on military options. ZP Heller writes a little on this, discussing, first, what a 30,000 or so US troop ‘surge’ would hope to accomplish. Heller wonders why an increased commitment to nation building, such as development, wouldn’t be more effective. Here’s a clip from the article:

And is committing tens of thousands more troops really the best way to help a war-torn nation with 40 percent unemployment and some 5 million people living below the poverty line? Proponents of escalation like Karin von Hippel, an Afghanistan expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, suggest that 30,000 more troops will make a psychological impact. But wouldn’t a more profound psychological impact come from to sending humanitarian aid, creating jobs, and getting Afghanistan away from what Secretary of State Clinton recently called a “narco state?”

Perhaps the question needs to be reformulated, not in terms of how much but rather in terms of how. A little money can go a very long way in Afghanistan, a country whose government had a meager $685 million revenue in 2007. I think the question needs to be how to let Afghans most effectively reconstruct their country and to “bring into existence something that looks like a modern cohesive Afghan state,” as Helene Cooper describes in a recent New York Times article. I don’t know how an outside authority can impose self-reliance and good governance on a people. I believe that at best only assistance can be provided. Under the current circumstance of full military and political intervention, I don’t find it surprising that the US Government Accountability Office finds that that “only 2 of 105 army units are assessed as being fully capable of conducting their primary mission.” The Afghan central government, in its current form, is dependent on the US and its NATO allies as its key source of funding, delivered to them with prescriptive formulas that preclude self-determination. Effectively, Afghanistan’s central government sees outside powers and funders as one of its most important constituents, and is incentivised to become what leading Afghan expert Barnett R. Rubin calls a “weak rentier or allocation state.”

The Taliban, without Western funds or training, seems to be able to grow and fight against a modern army just fine. It shouldn’t take a heavily supported central government this long to become at least militarily effective. There must be something wrong in the form of assistance itself.

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