(A version of this article first appeared on TheAtlantic.com)
In this election year, the Administration needs to blunt the Afghanistan issue by showing that the Afghan security forces and the Afghan government can survive the American troop withdrawal in 2014.
To do so, it has staged two recent events. First, on July 7, Secretary of State Clinton announced that Afghanistan would be officially designated as a “non-NATO ally of the United States” which makes it eligible for priority delivery of military hardware and for U.S. help to buy arms and equipment. But the U.S. has thus far failed to indicate what level and kind of troop support—or what type of other security capabilities—will be available for Afghanistan after the major U.S. withdrawal in 2014.
Second, on July 8, the U.S. joined in an announcement of the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework under which 70 international donors pledged $16 billion over the next four years to strengthen the Afghan government, by making up an Afghan fiscal shortfall and helping to improve institutions and services in Afghanistan, with up to 20 percent supposedly conditioned on Afghan progress in arresting corruption and creating better governance.
But the framework document—which could be Exhibit A in any catalog of vapid bureaucratese—seems to have come off some development office word processor and bears little resemblance to a nation that is designated the third most corrupt in the world (176 out of 178) in the Transparency International corruption index, is the world’s eleventh poorest (per the World Bank) and has absorbed more than $80 billion in non-military aid from the U.S. in the past 10 years with few concrete, let alone durable, gains. (Says Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies: “the lack of transparency and credibility has been a critical problem…particularly in the almost total lack of credibility in reporting on the impact of aid, quality and integrity of governance and presence of a functioning justice system.” ) Read more