Outlook Bleak in Afghanistan

An alarming article from Fred Kaplan summarizes a recent Pentagon report on Afghanistan that’s full of bad news:

Things in that unhappy country are going badly — much worse, of course, than Team Obama had to pretend this week but quite a bit worse than even a sensible skeptic might think. And unless Karzai takes to heart the lectures he heard (someone must have given him a stern talking-to amid all the bonhomie), things are only going to get worse still.

The evidence for this comes from an unclassified, 150-page Defense Department document called “Report on Progress Toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan.” Released in late April, it’s the fifth in a series of semi-annual reports mandated by Congress. A few disheartening lines from its executive summary were duly recited by the media. But the full report is a hair-raiser. The news is almost all bad; and the few bits of good news turn out, on close inspection, to be extremely misleading.

If you’re like me, you’re probably not going to read the 150-page report this afternoon, but Kaplan’s summary is well worth your time. I’d also once again recommend Colin Cookman and Caroline Wadhams on governance in Afghanistan which raises a number of important questions about the sustainability of the government we’re setting up. For example, only 30 percent of the “core” Afghan budget is financed from domestic revenue sources, and total government spending appears to be about 33 percent of GDP which is almost certainly more than you can raise in such a poor country.



More on this from Michael Cohen.