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Cash will be key weapon in Afghanistan

Steve Henn Dec 2, 2009

Cash will be key weapon in Afghanistan

Steve Henn Dec 2, 2009


Kai Ryssdal: Those 30, 000 troops that will be going to Afghanistan are going to take all the usual military hardware with them. Trucks and artillery and helicopters and humvees. More than a few of them will also have this in their backpacks. A handbook called the “Commanders Guide to Money as a Weapons System.” It says right there in the foreword that, and this is an actual quote, that money and contracting in a counterinsurgency environment are vital elements of combat power. Dollars will be a key part of the American military strategy in Afghanistan. They’ll also be widely distributed as development aid. Marketplace’s Steve Henn has more on the many uses of cold hard cash.

STEVE HENN: Next year, development aid to Afghanistan will more than triple, from roughly $3 billion to more than $10 billion. That’s almost half the size of Afghanistan’s GDP.

But Andrew Wilder, an Afghan expert at Tufts University, says the assumption that the military can use money as a weapon could easily backfire.

ANDREW WILDER: There is alarmingly little evidence that aid is effective in promoting our stabilization objectives or in say winning hearts and minds.

Wilder says right now the U.S. military evaluates some commanders on how many development projects they fund. And aid groups struggle to spend money quickly enough. But Wilder says not enough attention is paid to oversight.

WILDER: We are trying to spend too much money too quickly in these insecure areas, and I think that’s actually ending up fueling corruption.

And in hostile areas enormous sums are spent on security for each new road or school project. That security’s contracted out.

WILDER: There’s lots of anecdotal evidence of significant amounts of money being is paid to the Taliban as protection money.

ASHRAF HAIDARI: To provide security. Yes.

Ashraf Haidari is political counselor at the Afghan Embassy. Haidari says it’s true some U.S. aid ends up in Taliban hands. He acknowledges many big aid projects produce no lasting results.

HAIDARI: Throwing more money at Afghanistan will not help resolve the situation there.

Instead of more money, Haidari and Wilder want the U.S. military to start paying closer attention to development results.

WILDER: The focus should be on how do you spend that money accountably and effectively.

Wilder says smaller projects, less waste and a slower pace are much more likely to help instead of undermine the U.S. war effort.

In Washington, I’m Steve Henn for Marketplace.

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