Recommitting at Brussels to the Development of Afghanistan

Next week, the European Union and the Afghan government will cohost the third in a series of conferences in Brussels that will convene Afghanistan’s partners to discuss foreign assistance commitments. Taking a long view, there has been considerable economic and social progress that gets little attention. Security is vital for the success of Afghanistan’s government, but economic and social progress alongside good governance is also needed. The costs of leaving Afghanistan and allowing a friendly government to collapse could be immense in a region that is volatile and susceptible to further inroads by the Taliban and other extremist groups. Afghanistan does not yet have the capacity to resist the Taliban without assistance from its international partners. The Brussels conference is an opportunity to acknowledge the key role of development assistance, and it complements to July’s NATO Summit in Warsaw, which focused primarily on providing security assistance.

Maintaining funding around $3-4 billion per year through 2020 is not an overwhelming ask from Afghanistan’s international partners. The United States, the international community, and the region could pay very high costs for prematurely withdrawing support from Afghanistan. With sustained and relatively modest international support, we can expect that Afghanistan will muddle through on an upward trajectory during the coming decade. We should be ready for a scenario where security remains tenuous, the national government maintains control of large swaths of the country, presses ahead with reform, and slowly builds economic growth and progress on social indicators, and all the while, the Taliban continues to exist and fight.

Photo credit: SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images
Daniel F. Runde
Senior Vice President; William A. Schreyer Chair; Director, Project on Prosperity and Development

Earl Anthony Wayne

Senior Adviser, Project on Prosperity and Development

Jena Santoro

Program Manager, Project on Prosperity and Development