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The Importance of Sustainable U.S. Aid to Afghanistan

Afghan Aid Under the Microscope

As the debate over how many troops should be pulled out of Afghanistan rages on in the Obama administration, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has released a report examining U.S. assistance to Afghanistan. CAP foreign policy expert John Norris highlights the problems facing the current aid agenda and explains why the methods of expense matter.

According to the report, released last Wednesday after two years of research and compilation by the committee, over $51 billion in U.S. government expenses has gone into Afghanistan aid since 2002. While it lauded the current administration’s overhaul of development strategy, the report also cited Afghanistan’s weak governing institution and rapidly formed aid programs as detrimental to U.S. development and security objectives in the long run.

Norris explains that to have development programs be sustainable usually means engaging in genuine consultation with the people on the ground that will own and manage projects and programs long after donors and aid workers are gone. That kind of partnership can be slow and laborious in the best of settings, and work in Afghanistan is clearly more challenging than most.

Unless the Afghan government is able and willing to take real ownership of efforts to create jobs and improve the lives of its own people, all of our investments in Afghanistan will ultimately be castles made of sand.

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