Find a Security Clearance Job!


Analysis: Deconstructing Afghanistan

Council on Foreign Relations

August 24, 2006
Prepared by: Lionel Beehner

Afghanistan's post-conflict troubles are often overshadowed by Iraq's. Shortly after the fall of the Taliban, some limited reconstruction work began. Bridges were rebuilt and roads were repaired. The introduction of so-called provincial reconstruction teams (PRTs)—small, civilian-military units typically comprising around one hundred to 200 personnel—had a mixed record of success. But the bulk of the humanitarian funds in 2002 and 2003 still went toward emergency food and shelter, not long-term reconstruction projects, reports the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) (PDF).

That has changed, according to a more recent GAO report on Afghan reconstruction. Of $720 million spent on non-security-related assistance in 2004, over three-quarters was devoted to reconstruction. More recently, the distribution of reconstruction aid is based on the Afghanistan Compact, a five-year plan signed in January that focuses on security, rule of law, and development. In addition to roads, hospitals, and schools, a nascent banking sector has been slowly built, with eight or more private banks now in existence in Afghanistan, according to Amirzai Sangin, Afghanistan's minister of communications, speaking at CSIS. He also points to Afghanistan's growing telecom industry; more than 1.5 million Afghans now own phones (most of them mobile phones), a figure expected to double in the next three years.

Yet, as the country's security situation increasingly worsens, so too does its pace of reconstruction (NYT). Former U.S. ambassador Peter Tomsen believes reconstruction in Afghanistan is now worse than in Iraq, particularly along the border with Pakistan. "Our overall reconstruction in Afghanistan in the south and east has been a lot of promises and very little product to show for it," he says in this Backgrounder.

Read the rest of this article on the website.

Copyright 2006 by the Council on Foreign Relations. This material is republished on with specific permission from the Reprint and republication queries for this article should be directed to

Join the mailing list