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Afghan Aid: PEACE OUT

July 8, 2010

US Army Staff Sgt. Michael Kaman helps secure an area along the Pech River during a meeting between key leaders in the Kunar province of Afghanistan in February 2007. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss local development projects that are a combined effort of the Coalition led Asadabad Provincial Reconstruction Team and local contractors. (Photo: Staff Sgt. Joshua Gipe, US Army via Flickr)

US aid policy vis-à-vis Afghanistan has recently come under increasing scrutiny, as several reports have surfaced about the gross mismanagement of aid funds and its negative impact on the Afpak war. Thus, naturally, the blogosphere was in an uproar when Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY), a leading appropriator of foreign operations on the Hill, issued a statement that gave notice of congressional intentions to slash foreign aid appropriations for Afghanistan in FY-2011.

The Center for Global Development’s Todd Moss wondered why Afghanistan—certainly not the only recipient of US aid notorious for its rampant corruption—is the cutoff for American policymakers in regards to foreign assistance.

“If you read Lowey’s statement and insert ‘Senegal’ (or ‘Haiti’ or ‘Yemen’) where she says Afghanistan,” Moss said, “there is equal justification for a cutoff.” In response, Sarah Jane Staats suggested that the FY-2011 budget is actually more of the same with regards to US development policy and that little has changed.

Their suggestions are made all the more striking when one considers other recent developments in the Afghan war theatre. A front page NYT story about the recent discovery of $1 trillion worth of untapped mineral deposits throughout Afghanistan raised hopes as well as disbelief, but we have learned to be skeptical about the prospects of developing countries with vast resources. Furthermore, the fact that Transparency International ranks Afghanistan as the second most corrupt in the world—Somalia being the only country more corrupt—has not exactly galvanized support for increasing US assistance to Kabul.

One thing, however, is clear: when close to 30% of an aid recipient’s GDP is being funneled out of the capital and into financial safe havens abroad, a sweeping reassessment of foreign assistance policy is necessary.

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