Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Aghanistan to remain dependent upon US and allies' funding for years

While the Afghan security forces may or may not be able to fend off attacks by the Taliban when the 2015 fighting begins next spring, one thing is certain, the Afghan government cannot fund those forces without aid from the US and others.

The U.S. along with other international donors provide 65 percent of the $7.6 billion Afghan yearly budget. The special inspector general for Afghan reconstruction, John Sopko, notes that Afghanistan raises only about $2 billion of the annual $5 to $6 billion required each year just to maintain its police force and armed forces. The new government of Afghanistan led by president Ashraf Ghani has been more cooperative with the US so far than former President Hamid Karzai was during the end of his term. Unlike Karzai, Ghani signed a security agreement within days of becoming president that will allow about 10,000 US troops to remain after the present agreement expires at the end of this year.
 The upkeep of the Afghan government has been a huge expense for the US taxpayer. Since 2001 when the Taliban fell and the US-led occupation began, the US government has spent $104 billion for rebuilding and support for the Afghan government. Even though most US troops will be withdrawn at the end of this year, the US is expected to keep providing from $5 to $8 billion a year for another decade.
A report by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee compiled by the Democratic majority staff says that funding must be linked to progress on reform of Afghanistan's human rights record. The new unity government of president Ashraf Ghani and runner-up Abdullah Abdullah will share powers of appointment. Washington has some concern that this could result in a bloated bureaucracy of political appointees. The Senate report warns that the US Congress plans to monitor whom they appoint to government positions. No doubt this will result in the government being packed with many pro-western officials. The report warns that allocation of assistance will be tied to "specific reforms: ""A higher proportion of U.S. assistance should be conditioned based on specific reforms by the Afghan government. The U.S. should make clear to the new government that the appointment process factors into how the U.S. allocates assistance."
 The report also notes that the US should not disengage from Afghanistan as it did in the 1990's with the result that the Taliban came to power in much of the country. The US Congress is likely to approve the aid even in the light of limited reforms to the Afghan human rights record as they have done in the past.
 The security situation in Afghanistan seems to be getting worse at the end of the fighting season and as most western forces withdraw. Even in the northern province of Badakhshan a Taliban operation abducted 17 police officers. In another attack on a prosecutor's office in Kunduz province killed seven prosecutors, two police, and a civilian. Just last Sunday the last US Marines as well as combat troops from the UK ended their Afghan combat operations and responsibility for security was given to Afghan forces. Winter weather will soon create a relative lull in Taliban attacks but it remains to be seen how Afghan forces will fare next spring when a new season of battle will begin.

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