TWQ: A Truly Regional Economic Strategy for Afghanistan - Spring 2011
April 1, 2011
Two events in the past year have shifted the focus of efforts to stabilize Afghanistan as President Obama’s July 2011 deadline for beginning a drawdown of U.S. forces approaches. The first was the Kabul Conference, held July 20, 2010, where Afghan President Hamid Karzai announced that
Afghanistan would take full responsibility for its sovereignty and security by the end of 2014. The November 2010 NATO conference in Lisbon—the second event—confirmed this benchmark for full transition to Afghan sovereignty as well as a longer-term commitment to a ‘‘strong partnership’’ beyond 2014. While there are certain caveats about ‘‘conditions-based’’ decisions regarding these benchmarks, this timeframe should guide the strategic planning of the Afghan government,
the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), and regional partners.
The timeframe was then confirmed in the December 2010 summary of the Obama administration’s annual review of Afghanistan and Pakistan, declaring: ‘‘This review also underscores the importance of a sustained long-term commitment to the region...[with] the goal for Afghans to assume the lead for security across the country by 2014, and NATO’s enduring commitment beyond 2014.’’
Bizarrely absent, however, was any mention of promoting development objectives important to the people of Afghanistan. In fact, there is no mention in the review at all about the status or importance of sustained economic growth for the durable stabilization of that country. Unfortunately for those following U.S. and allied efforts in Afghanistan, now entering their tenth year, the economic development piece has never received the focused and strategic attention it deserves compared to the efforts to militarily secure the country, train Afghan security forces, and promote better governance. The United States has to assume greater leadership in this area because success of the mission
in Afghanistan depends on it, and no other country or multilateral institution is capable of exercising it.