COMMITTING TO AFGHANISTAN: The Case for Increasing U.S. Reconstruction and Stabilization Aid

By Colucci, Craig C. | Military Review, June 2008 | Go to article overview

COMMITTING TO AFGHANISTAN: The Case for Increasing U.S. Reconstruction and Stabilization Aid


Colucci, Craig C., Military Review


THE DEVELOPMENT OF AFGHANISTAN as a successful nation-state is at grave risk, and its failure could have a resounding strategic and economic impact on the United States and, indeed, the entire world. This summer will be a critical time, as increasing instability threatens to unravel the initial successes achieved after the U.S. invasion in 2001.

Four major, interconnected problems threaten the stability of the country: a strong resurgence of the Taliban, a substantial increase in violence, an alarming growth in opium production, and a demoralized population with little faith that their quality of life will improve and serious misgivings about the conduct of the Afghan Government and NATO forces.1 At the same time, the United States has decreased its contributions for reconstruction and stabilization (R&S) aid.2 Over the course of the War on Terrorism, R&S funding for Afghanistan has been minimal in relation to overall war costs and meager compared to those of past U.S. nation-building efforts. This "bare bones" spending policy is one of the factors threatening the stability of Afghanistan. Should the Afghan state fail or the government weaken, this shortsighted approach will have caused economic woes for the United States.

We should not lose hope, however, for there has been a renewed focus on Afghanistan by President Bush's administration. In January, President Bush announced he is seeking $10.6 billion in aid to Afghanistan over the next two years. This funding allocation would designate $8.6 billion for training and equipping Afghan forces and $2 billion for reconstruction.3 However, do not break out the "mission accomplished" signs yet, because two problems exist with this funding. First, Afghanistan needs the aid right now-not later-to fight against another spring and summer Taliban offensive. Second, $2 billion is not nearly enough to address Afghanistan's reconstruction requirements. The United States should increase R&S funding for Afghanistan immediately to combat the increasing number of serious challenges that threaten its stability and to prevent future economic problems for America.

Increasing Instability

The Taliban is making a violent resurgence throughout Afghanistan.4 Last October, Afghan President Hamid Karzai attributed this resurgence to the "lack of a proper police force, lack of a proper military force, and because of the general inability of the country, weakened by years of destruction, to provide that kind of protection to the public."5 In September 2006, two Newsweek correspondents met with a Taliban leader residing just a two-hour drive south of the capital, Kabul. They reported, "Ridge by ridge and valley by valley, the religious zealots [Taliban] who harbored Osama bin-Laden before 9/11-and who suffered devastating losses in the U.S. invasion that began five years ago-are surging back into the country's center."6 Recently, Taliban leaders said that they have 10,000 fighters and suicide bombers ready to fight.7

Violence is accompanying the resurgence of the Taliban. Civilian and military casualties are mounting at alarming levels.8 U.S. combat-related casualties in and around Afghanistan have doubled since February 2005 (see figure 1).9 The increasing use of improvised explosive devices and suicide bombers prompted the vice-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to visit Afghanistan in September 2006 to address the situation.10 The violence has greatly hindered Afghanistan's reconstruction. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which leads reconstruction in Afghanistan, notes, "security remains the greatest obstacle to development in Afghanistan."11

The increasing drug cultivation adds to the problems. President Karzai said that the country needs to destroy opium, or opium will destroy Afghanistan.12 In that case, the 49 percent annual increase in opium cultivation (6,100 metric tons) in 2006 might be an early sign of impending disaster. …

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