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Report: US aid could be destabilizing Afghanistan in the long term

A comprehensive congressional report finds that billions of dollars of US aid could be feeding corruption and establishing programs that will collapse when the US leaves.

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An Afghan girl waits near a water truck to fill a small container at a camp outside of Jalalabad, Afghanistan Nov. 11, 2009. $19 billion in aid has been sent to Afghanistan from the US, but evidence shows it may be doing harm to the economy and may not help in the long term.

Rahmat Gul/AP/File

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Much of the $19 billion in foreign aid that the United States has pumped into Afghanistan in the past decade may be fueling development on the ground in the short term, but is unlikely to produce change that will last once US troops depart, according to a new congressional report.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee calls the report “the most comprehensive congressional investigation to date of US foreign assistance to Afghanistan.” It warns that while the US currently spends more on aid to Afghanistan than to any other country, that money is often not having a positive impact – and in many cases, may be contributing to corruption and to future economic woes for the poverty-stricken country.

The problem, the report points out, is that aid programs aimed to stabilize the country – and the great sums of money that accompany them – are at the heart of the US military’s counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan. “Our strategy assumes that short-term aid promotes stability in counterinsurgency operations and ‘wins hearts and minds,’ ” according to the study. "The evidence from Afghanistan supporting these assumptions," however, "is limited.”

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