The good news in ‘Afghanistan’s Marshall Plan’

December 19, 2014

As the U.S. continues its troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, it’s worth taking a look at how much the nation has spent on aid–and how effective it has (or hasn’t) been.

Certainly, the numbers are high. A July quarterly report (PDF) released by special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction John F. Sopko declared that in passing $104 billion mark “the United States will have committed more funds to reconstruct Afghanistan, in inflation-adjusted terms, than it spent on 16 European countries after World War II under the Marshall Plan.” It is safe to say that the $103.4 billion current-day dollars spent on the Marshall Plan led to better nation building, and critics were quick to malign much of the spending in Afghanistan as ill-conceived and poorly managed.

But as  this Reuters graphic makes clear, a number of social and economic indicators describe an marked improvement quality of life in Afghanistan. Against the most recent numbers, Afghan life expectancy has  jumped by 5 years since 2002 and total GDP has quintupled. In 2011, the number of children who died before the age of five was less than 40 percent of the 2003 figure, and the number of women dying in child birth was almost one-fifth the 2002 rate. Doctors per 1,000 people have tripled; access to reliable electricity has better than quadrupled; school enrollment has better than octupled; and high school enrollment has tripled.

In the long wars triggered by the 9/11 attacks, making people’s lives tangibly better beats torture every time, and the Taliban massacre of scores of Pakistani school children this week can’t be winning hearts and minds in the region. The war in Afghanistan has taken more than 3,400 U.S. and Coalition lives, with over 20,000 wounded, at a price tag of almost $1 trillion. It is important to recognize that some good has come from those costs.

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3 comments

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Meanwhile millions of children in the USA remain homeless and hungry.

Posted by smiley1 | Report as abusive

“.. critics were quick to malign ..”

This excess public fund abuse for a lost cause is worthy of bringing to much needed discussion and correction. While we are struggling with lack of funds for protecting our borders, restoring our roads infrastructure and the like, this global spend non-essential to the national interest, is both reckless and seen as abuse of public funds. The outlined improvements can be achieved more effectively at fractional cost, if not for the systemic built-in corruption where, none of these funds address to improve on. It is considered a waste.

Posted by Mott | Report as abusive

Standard workings of USAID – somewhat perpetual machine to instigate conflict in the guise of aid/democracy/free-trade, to feed defense/medical contract-spend at significant proportion under the cover of relatively, insignificant Aid cover.

Reuters Censors: Pl. allow this comment to show. Thanks.

Posted by Mott | Report as abusive