Columbia International Affairs Online: Policy Briefs

CIAO DATE: 02/2009

Saving Afghanistan: An Appeal and Plan for Urgent Action

January 2008

Atlantic Council


Make no mistake, the international community is not winning in Afghanistan. Unless this reality is understood and action is taken promptly, the future of Afghanistan is bleak, with regional and global impact. The purpose of this paper is to sound the alarm and to propose specific actions that must be taken now if Afghanistan is to succeed in becoming a secure, safe, and functioning state.
On the security side, a stalemate of sorts has taken hold. NATO and Afghan forces cannot be beaten by the insurgency or by the Taliban. Neither can our forces eliminate the Taliban by military means as long as they have sanctuary in Pakistan. Hence, the future of Afghanistan will be determined by progress or failure in the civil sector.

However, civil sector reform is in serious trouble. Little coordination exists among the many disparate international organizations and agencies active in Afghanistan. Legal and judicial reform (including reducing corruption), and control of narcotics are interdependent efforts and must receive the highest priority. To add insult to injury, of every dollar of aid spent on Afghanistan, less than ten percent goes directly to Afghans, further compounding reform and reconstruction problems.