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Posts Tagged ‘Afghanistan’

Save the Children Releases Report, Afghanistan in Transition

Monday, December 12th, 2011
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MFAN Partner Save the Children has released a report, Afghanistan in Transition, calling for attention to development and governance during the impending withdrawal of U.S. troops, and outlaying recommendations to development and government actors.

As the United States begins to draw down its efforts in Afghanistan – a situation not unlike some 20 years ago – the sustainability of the transition will depend on careful focus and continued development efforts. Afghanistan has received large portions of U.S. aid and made significant development gains over the last decade, but this progress will be at risk if continued diligence is not given.

The report details much of Afghanistan’s progress in sectors such as health, nutrition and food security, education, child protection and child rights, and humanitarian issues. However, achievements in these sectors are only relative, and even these gains are at significant risk of being lost. As an example, Afghanistan has witnessed a 26 percent reduction in its child mortality, yet it still retains one of the world’s worst child mortality rates. Solutions, such as training for Community Health Workers and midwives, have been only marginally addressed. Save argues that greater focus is needed in all sectors where relative achievements show promise but lack necessary emphasis and funds.

Afghanistan in Transition goes further to outline the reasons why development progress has been slow in Afghanistan. First is the issue of poor governance, including cases of corruption and a lack of institutional capacity. This leads to bottlenecking and waste of aid dollars, as well as the misalignment of development projects.  Moreover, a relatively weak civil society and a lack of transparency and accountability in governance add to this deficit.

Afghanistan is a fragile state in the midst of conflict, further complicating its development progress. Under the discretion of national security interests, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) targets areas of strategic importance rather than responding to direct provincial needs. As the report notes, “the aim of ‘winning hearts and minds’ has had the effect of penalizing the ‘peaceful but poor’ provinces.” For example, 77 percent of aid efforts are directed to southern and eastern regions of military interest, drawing resources away from peaceful provinces where the poverty rates are far higher.  Questions of sustainability are also rising, as 97 percent of Afghanistan’s GDP is comprised of aid money.

In the end, Afghanistan in Transition’s recommendations include:

  • Long-term investments to ensure sustainability and effectiveness of aid programs;
  • Strengthened mutual accountability, by increasing transparency and improving results measurement;
  • Investment in improved data and statistical capacity through concerted efforts;
  • A focus on children; over half of Afghanistan’s population is comprised of children, and issues such as health, education, and protection will require donor involvement; and
  • Prioritization of funding for needs-based areas. Military, political, or security interests cannot divert efforts for sustainable development.

 

Sen. Graham Defends State, USAID

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011
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Sen Lindsey GrahamAnother Republican has come out in support of the International Affairs budget. In an exclusive interview with The Cable blog, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) spoke to the importance of fully funding diplomatic and development efforts worldwide. Graham, who is likely to become Ranking Member on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations, commented: “If you don’t want to use military force any more than you have to, count me in. State Department, USAID, all of these programs, in their own way, help win this struggle against radical Islam. The unsung heroes of this war are the State Department officials, the [Department of Justice] officials, and the agricultural people who are going out there.”

He added, “To those members who do not see the value of the civilian partnership in the war on terror, I think they are making a very dangerous decision.” Graham intends to work closely with Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) to increase funding for State and USAID in frontline states like Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq and increase partnerships in these key regions; “The way I look at it is, it’s national security insurance that we’re buying.”

On the House side, Appropriations State and Foreign Ops Subcommittee Chairwoman Kay Granger (R-TX) is supportive of State and USAID efforts but recognizes the tough fight ahead for funding.

To read more from Josh Rogin’s blog, click here.

Update on the Budget

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011
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A week before the House Appropriates Committee is set to outline its budget cuts and set against the backdrop of unrest in Egypt and the Middle East, the battle over the International Affairs budget continues to heat up. A piece in POLITICO today acknowledges the “dramatic reversal of the activist Bush-era philosophy” as the rift grows between GOP old-timers who acknowledge the role the State Department and USAID play in national security and tea party challengers whose primary goal is to cut. The article quotes Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking member Dick Lugar (R-IN), who says, “It’s a new leadership group, and they are attempting to express that they are different and it’s a different time.” State’s spokesman P.J. Crowley told POLITICO, “If we have to take a significant cut in foreign assistance, in some fashion, that is going to affect Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen. Those are countries where we have vital interests and vital security concerns.”

Yesterday, Devex posted a story about President Obama’s five-year spending freeze announced in his State of the Union address last week. In a recent press briefing, U.S. National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer noted that the freeze will likely exclude the International Affairs budget. Hammer continued, the freeze “is the guidance for all departments, and so our budgets going forward will reflect that we clearly are very keen to preserve our foreign affairs funding in order to be best able to advance U.S. interests.” Read more here.

Stay tuned for more to come.

GOP Voices Make the Case for Effective Foreign Aid

Friday, January 28th, 2011
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Daily Caller logoFormer Ambassador to Tanzania and Congressman from Wisconsin Mark Green, Managing Director of the Malaria No More Policy Center, along with MFAN Co-Chair and former Republican Arizona Congressman Jim Kolbe, Senior Transatlantic Fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States and a Senior Advisor to McLarty Associates, and MFAN Principal and former President and CEO of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) Rob Mosbacher, Chairman of the Mosbacher Energy Company of Texas, put forth a strong defense for foreign assistance in a new op-ed in The Daily Caller. Green, Kolbe and Mosbacher urge policymakers to not cut short the achievements that aid has delivered over the last decade by slashing the budget, and instead focus on making US foreign assistance more efficient and effective—creating tremendous opportunities for the US to build markets and generate stability worldwide. Read the full op-ed below.

The Daily Caller

More effective foreign assistance can pay real dividends

Mark Green, Jim Kolbe, and Rob Mosbacher

January 28, 2011

As a new Congress gets into gear, both Republicans and Democrats have a solemn duty to do the people’s work and to make sure their taxpayer dollars are being spent wisely. U.S. foreign assistance is already under the microscope, as it should be, but we believe policymakers should focus on making it better instead of slashing budgets. Foreign assistance accounts for less than 1% of our federal budget, and our investments in it can pay real dividends for the cost.

The world has changed dramatically even in the last decade, becoming more interconnected and full of challenges that defy narrow solutions. Our foreign assistance is a projection of our responsible leadership in the world; it is more important than ever to our security and economic interests. We must take the politics out of this debate and get down to the facts.

In terms of our national security, we provide extensive counter-terrorism and counterinsurgency assistance to “frontline states” such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen. These civilian-led programs help build and train national army and police forces, support democracy and the rule of law, and improve destitute living conditions that can fuel extremism and anti-American sentiment.

Military leaders from Secretary of Defense Gates to Joint Chiefs Chairman Mullen to Afghanistan Commander Petraeus have issued strong calls for strengthening civilian programs that take some of the burdens off of our war fighters, with Gates saying recently that helping countries develop “is a lot cheaper than sending soldiers.”

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