Afghan Mission Unsustainable

My title and the Washington Post’s title are not exactly the same for reasons I’ll explain. The Wapo article: “Afghan nation-building programs not sustainable” cites major costs with little in return in ways that reaches US demands. The nation building mission in Afghanistan has enjoyed little success and will more than likely be erased should America remove its forces and economic aid, a two year congressional study says.

The report describes the use of aid money to stabilize areas the military has cleared of Taliban fighters — a key component of the administration’s counterinsurgency strategy — as a short-term fix that provides politically pleasing results. But it says that the enormous cash flows can overwhelm and distort local culture and economies, and that there is little evidence the positive results are sustainable.

One example cited in the report is the Performance-Based Governors Fund, which is authorized to distribute up to $100,000 a month in U.S. funds to individual provincial leaders for use on local expenses and development projects. In some provinces, it says, “this amount represents a tidal wave of funding” that local officials are incapable of “spending wisely.”

Because oversight is scanty, the report says, the fund encourages corruption. Although the U.S. plan is for the Afghan government to eventually take over this and other programs, it has neither the management capacity nor the funds to do so.

My point on this has been clear. If our nation building programs are failing, then our mission in Afghanistan will fail. That is the whole premise around which our military is involved there in the first place. We are not fighting a conventional war. There is no blitz to outlying cities and capitals. No mechanized or armored troops to encircle and cutoff. No runways to capture so that our air force can pound cities and dislodge fortified troops. In other words, our policy makers brokered on flowery possibilities and hypothetical outcomes instead of tangible and defined goals.

Afghanistan has been a continuously evolving peace keeping and democratic experiment. It’s success of which depended strongly on the receptiveness of the Afghan people. That in itself has been a bag of surprises. The successes and breakthroughs, however, should not be over looked, but neither should the larger picture be ignored. Our policy in Afghanistan morphed into hope backed by a costly and monumental effort. If the policies set in place in which to achieve those hoped for outcomes are failing, then what chance at success do we have?