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Afghan would not survive US leaving

The hugely expensive U.S. attempt at nation-building in Afghanistan has had only limited success and may not survive an American withdrawal, according to the findings of a two-year congressional investigation to be released on Wednesday. Karen DeYoung reports.

world Updated: Jun 08, 2011 23:19 IST
Karen DeYoung

The hugely expensive U.S. attempt at nation-building in Afghanistan has had only limited success and may not survive an American withdrawal, according to the findings of a two-year congressional investigation to be released on Wednesday.

The report calls on the administration to rethink urgently its assistance programs as president Barack Obama prepares to begin drawing down the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan this summer.

The report, prepared by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Democratic majority staff, comes as Congress and the American public have grown increasingly restive about the human and economic cost of the decade-long war and reflects growing concerns about Obama’s war strategy even among supporters within his party.

The report describes the use of aid money to stabilise areas the military has cleared of Taliban fighters — a key component of the administration’s counterinsurgency strategy — as a short-term fix that provides politically pleasing results. But it says that the enormous cash flows can overwhelm and distort local culture and economies, and that there is little evidence the positive results are sustainable.

One example cited in the report is the Performance-Based Governors Fund, which is authorised to distribute up to $100,000 a month in U.S. funds to individual provincial leaders for use on local expenses and development projects. In some provinces, it says, “this amount represents a tidal wave of funding” that local officials are incapable of “spending wisely.”

Because oversight is scanty, the report says, the fund encourages corruption. Although the U.S. plan is for the Afghan government to eventually take over this and other programs, it has neither the management capacity nor the funds to do so.