TIME IS RUNNING OUT FOR AFGHANISTAN
The April 5th Election is Only The Prelude to Transition
By Anthony H. Cordesman
03 Apr 14. The war in Afghanistan is not so much forgotten as in limbo. It may not be ‘Waiting for Godot,’ but it is obviously waiting for something. No leadership on the issue has emerged from the White House in months. There are no public plans or budgets for either the military or civil side of the war, no one has defined what will happen of the Bilateral Security Agreement is signed or what a “zero option” really means.
Waiting for an Afghan Godot: No Real U.S. Budget, No Real Plan
The Pentagon and ISAF no longer issue any kind of detailed military progress reports or metrics and the state Department and USAID never did. The State Department FY2015 requested $5.9 billion in aid funds for Overseas Contingency Operations, or OCO. It funds “key programs in Iraq and Pakistan and helps sustain hard-fought gains in Afghanistan through the 2014 transition.”
Only $2.6 billion of this is allocated to Afghanistan under conditions where State cautions that, “the Administration has not yet determined the size and scope of any post-2014 U.S. presence,” but indicates that the United States will sustain, “our diplomatic platform and security operations in Kabul, Mazar-e-sharif, and Heart, while assuming selection reductions in personnel in preparation for transition. The budget prioritizes technical assistance and channels more aid through Afghan institutions, while holding the Government of Afghanistan accountable for undertaking concrete reforms and improving efficiency and sustainability, FY2015 funds will sustain gains in health and education, projects to facilitate economic self-sufficiency through improved agricultural production, good governance, rule of law and women’s rights as laid out in the strategic Partnership agreement.”
In short, buzz words waiting for a plan, and hopes that the war, governance problems, and economic strains won’t create a crisis. All of them mixed with implied promises about progress and reforms for which there seem to be no clear time limits, conditions, and commitments
There also seem to be additional funds for security enhancements for U.S. personnel in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan that total $5.1 billion. Exactly what this means in terms of real Transition planning for Afghanistan is anyone’s guess. There seem to be no contingency funds for any kind of economic crisis in Afghanistan as aid and military spending are cut, or planning for what could happen if the April 5th election results in a run off, a prolonged delay in forming an effective government, or while the three most likely candidates — Abdullah Abdullah and Zalmai Rassoul and Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani, all of whom lack detailed experience in governing –- show whether they can actually lead a state that now has to operate largely on its own.
No effort is made to address the economic and governance warnings in the World Bank Afghan economic update issued on October 1, 2013. (http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/2013/10/18433329/afghanistan-economic-update-poverty-reduction-economic-management)
As for the Department of Defense’s FY2015 budget request, it provides no details on Afghanistan at all. The total request for OCO funds is also stated to be a nominal placeholder waiting for a real budget request – although the placeholder numbers in the DoD budget brief do send the signal that the total for OCO funding dropped from a peak of $162 billion in FY2010 to $85 billion in FY2014, has a placeholder number of $79 billion for FY2015 and will then drop to $30 billion for FY2016-FY2019.
The Uncertain Status of Military Aid
The closest thing to a recent unclassified official status report on the Afghan War, and plan for Transition in Afghanistan, comes from General Joseph F. Dunford – the Commander of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan – and his testimony to the Senate and House Armed service Committe