Can’t Buy Me Peace

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U.S. Marines build a bridge in Afghanistan / Marine photo by Daniel Woodall

The Senate Democrats on the foreign relations committee have just issued as report saying that the $18.8 billion — so far — U.S. effort to rebuild Afghanistan has had limited success and may not survive a U.S. troop pullout. U.S. development money — now some $10 million a day — is sucking Afghan workers into jobs with contractors instead of their local governments. Paying them 10 times the traditional local wage has “drawn otherwise qualified civil servants away from the Afghan government and created a culture of aid dependency,” the report says. It also is too much money to spend wisely, and consequently contributes to corruption.

According to the report, released Wednesday morning, outside military and developmental spending now accounts for 97% of Afghanistan’s gross domestic product. It is building a house of cards that will collapse once the cash spigot is turned off, the report suggests. The U.S. strategy — pouring U.S. developmental aid into regions swept clean of Taliban militants — is key to preserving stability and letting the Afghans eventually take responsibility for more of their own country. But proof that such aid works is scanty, the report says. “Some research suggests the opposite,” it adds, “and development best practices question the efficacy of using aid as a stabilization tool over the long run.”