Making the Case for Sustained U.S. Engagement in a Transitioning Afghanistan
In the United States, there is a sense of "Afghanistan fatigue." While there are certainly valid criticisms that can be levied against U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, a significant amount of social, economic, political, and public health progress has resulted from our engagement and Afghans' own hard work and commitment.
The under-five mortality and maternal mortality rates have nearly halved since 2000. Virtually no one in Afghanistan had electricity in 2000, but by 2016, nearly 85 percent of the population did. Women's education was practically non-existent under Taliban rule, but 3.5 million Afghan women are now enrolled in school. 170 radio stations, hundreds of print media outlets, and dozens of TV stations have opened since 2001 as free media, cell phones, television, and the internet have transformed Afghan society. GDP per capita has tripled since 2001, and official development assistance (ODA) as a percentage of central government expenditure decreased from 206 percent in 2006 to 59 percent in 2015. The Afghan National Army is now the primary group fighting the Taliban, and U.S. troop presence has dropped from 110,000 in 2011 to the current plan of 8,600. But Afghanistan's political progress and social gains are at risk of collapse if the United States chooses to completely disengage from the country. Given the mix of gains and disappointments, how do we establish the correct framework for U.S. engagement with a transitioning Afghanistan in 2020 and beyond?
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