US: Congressional Panel Says America’s Afghan Aid Effort Has Had Limited Success

Posted June 8th, 2011 at 2:00 am (UTC-5)
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A U.S. congressional investigation has concluded that the American government's attempt at nation-building in Afghanistan has been only marginally successful and may not survive when foreign troops leave the country in 2014.

In a report being issued Wednesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee says the U.S. government has little to show for the nearly $19 billion it has spent aiding the Afghan government over the last decade, more foreign aid than for any other country. It says the U.S. government's spending — by the shear amount of it — has often overwhelmed the local Afghan economies and fostered corruption.

The report comes as President Barack Obama is considering how many U.S. troops to cut from the 100,000 now in Afghanistan. The report says the U.S. government must urgently consider its assistance programs that now total about $320 million a month. That is part of foreign military and development spending that provides 97 percent of the Afghan economy.

The congressional report concludes that Afghanistan “could suffer a severe economic depression” when the foreign troops are scheduled to leave at the end of 2014 unless proper planning is done now. It said the “right balance” should be struck between a sudden drop-off in assistance and a long-term phase-out.

The report was written by the majority Democrats on the congressional committee, but Republican lawmakers have also voiced their anxiety about the length and cost of the nearly 10-year U.S. war effort against Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan. Some lawmakers of both U.S. political parties have called for a rapid reduction in U.S. forces, especially after U.S. commandos last month killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan..

Mr. Obama is expected to make the troop decision in the coming weeks.

Senior Defense Department officials have cautioned against a precipitous withdrawal for fear that U.S. military gains against the Taliban could be reversed. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who is retiring soon, has called for a “modest” decrease.

One lawmaker, Senator Carl Levin, the chairman of the Senate's Armed Services Committee, says 15,000 troops should be withdrawn by the end of 2011. But Senator John McCain, who lost the 2008 presidential campaign to Mr. Obama, says the figure should be no more than 3,000.

The Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled Wednesday to hold a confirmation hearing for Mr. Obama's choice to become the new U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Ryan Crocker, a career diplomat.