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Analysis: Raising the Stakes for Afghanistan

Council on Foreign Relations

June 9, 2008
Author: Greg Bruno

When President Hamid Karzai arrives in Paris this week to pitch the Afghanistan National Development Strategy to donor nations, attention will undoubtedly focus on the eye-popping financial request: $50 billion. Afghan officials say that's what it will cost to stabilize the country's financial, security, and political sectors over the next five years. But like the challenges NATO has had in obtaining troop commitments for security, Afghanistan's civilian institutions face an uphill climb in convincing Western governments to pony up. The country continues to struggle with a resilient Taliban in the south, unrest along Afghanistan's border with Pakistan, limited central government control, and endemic corruption, any of which could make some donors nervous (NPR).

For Afghanistan, the stakes are high: Foreign assistance makes up the bulk of Afghanistan's public spending—90 percent by some estimates. Since 2001, an estimated $25 billion in humanitarian aid has been pledged, with the U.S. accounting for roughly one-third of that. An April 2008 report from the Congressional Research Service, however, notes that while the United States has spent roughly $140 billion on the Afghan mission since 2001, only about $11 billion has been allocated for foreign aid and diplomatic operations (PDF). Nor have pledges kept pace with delivery. The humanitarian group Oxfam International estimates that only about $15 billion of the money promised has been paid (PDF), and roughly 40 percent of that has ultimately been returned to donor countries in the form of "corporate profits and consultant salaries."

To be sure, Afghanistan is a vastly different country (PDF) today than it was just seven years ago. Roads have been built, schools erected, and access to basic health care dramatically expanded nationwide.

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