Afghanistan Economic Update

Policy and Poverty Team South Asia Region
World Bank
June 2010

As the United States prepares to exit Afghanistan, the nation must begin to face some serious problems. Government corruption is out of control, poverty is still rampant, and the drug market (particularly opium) is thriving.

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Quotes on Afghanistan's relationship to the United States from leading figures in the military, politics, and on the ground.

Commentary or Blog Post

"Afghanistan has changed in many and complex ways in the 10 years since operation enduring freedom began.

In this time we have had insights into the reality of war quite unlike any before.

The Afghanistan war logs gave insights into the numbers of explosive devises and the deaths these have caused. Freedom of Information requests have revealed the details of Afghanistan civilian...

An article discussing the war on drugs in Afghanistan, and then President-Elect Obama's new strategy, which would include a campaign on the illegal drug trade.

Ms. Innocent discusses the reasons for and against staying in Afghanistan, and concludes that it would be better now to withdraw.

Winning wars, as Churchill well knew, is not the final word. Winning requires winning the peace, too -- and peace requires eternal vigilance.

"After more than a decade of war, the Army wants to replace combat vehicles worn out from millions of miles in rugged terrain in Iraq and Afghanistan or blown up by roadside bombs."

"The Pentagon's embrace of drones in Iraq and Afghanistan has created demand for them among commanders on the ground, changing the face of situational awareness."

A succinct summation of the new "Clear, hold and build" strategy in Afghanistan, and how it is safe to start feeling optimistic, in spite of the large casualty numbers for July of 2009.

"As the Pentagon begins to wind down the war in Afghanistan, the smaller conflicts elite U.S. forces are fighting around the world are heating up."

"The White House has set out 46 metrics for success in Afghanistan and Pakistan, which Foreign Policy has acquired. Now that we know exactly how the Obama administration perceives victory in the countries and how it is setting out to achieve it, what does that mean for the Afghan war and for US national security?"

"Within a few years, that flying object overhead might not be a bird or a plane, but an unmanned aircraft. Drones, perhaps best known for their combat missions in Afghanistan, are increasingly looking to share room in U.S. skies with passenger planes. And that's prompting safety concerns."

"General Ashfaq Kayani, the chief of staff of the Pakistan Army, is much in the news these days. Senior foreign diplomatic officials make it a point to consult with him when in Islamabad."

"The following graphic lists the ten most/least corrupt countries based on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index for 2011. The Corruption Perception Index assigns countries and territories with scores between 0 (highly corrupt) and 10 (very clean). New Zealand tops the list as the least corrupt country, while North Korea and Somalia are all the way at the bottom."

"The Obama administration struck a largely symbolic blow Friday against what it considers the most violent and intransigent enemy of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, declaring that it will add the Pakistan-based Haqqani network to its list of terrorist organizations. Ordered by Congress last month to label the Taliban affiliate an official terrorist group or explain why it didn't qualify, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton informed lawmakers that she will designate the Haqqani group the 52nd entry on the State Department's Foreign Terrorist Organizations list."

"For Gen. James Cartwright, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the possibilities of the UAV's evolution from today's design to tomorrow's vision can't come soon enough. This portends more UAVs, digital versus analog, better technology, combat-capable and cognitive functions."

"Around the world, even more than in the United States, there is an audible sigh of relief the day after Obama won a clear mandate for a second term as president."

"The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) is a NATO-led security mission in Afghanistan established by the United Nations Security Council in December of 2001. The graphic below shows the gradual increase in number of ISAF forces over a 10-year period. It also breaks down the number of fatalities suffered by nationality."

An article detailing the current situation in Afghanistan. Mr. Woodward concludes that President Obama's order of troops is simply staving off defeat, that with the current strategy and number of troops the war is going to be a long, hard fight.

"Today on Good Morning America, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) refused to call the situation in Afghanistan 'precarious and urgent,' but admitted that 'We have a lot of work to do.' He warned of a 'very hard struggle, particularly given the situation on the Iraq-Pakistan border.'"

"The ability to visit a foreign country without the cost and hassle of obtaining a visa is a welcome bonus for any traveller. It is also a barometer of a country's international alliances and relations. A report released on August 25th by Henley & Partners, a consultancy, shows that Britons have the fewest visa restrictions of the 190-odd countries (and territories) for which data are...

"Barack Obama will end months of uncertainty over his Afghanistan policy when he announces tonight that he is to deploy 30,000 troops from the marines and army, in a last-ditch attempt to prevent the war being lost. The extra troops, in addition to the 21,000 dispatched in March, will mean America's engagement in Afghanistan will have doubled since he became president in January [2009]."

"President Obama declared Wednesday that the United States had largely achieved its goals in Afghanistan, setting in motion a substantial withdrawal of American troops in an acknowledgment of the shifting threat in the region and the fast-changing political and economic landscape in a war-weary America. Asserting that the country that served as a base for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks no longer...

A review of President Obama's plan to add an additional 20,000 troops with the goal of recruiting and training more Afghan troops so that they can eventually stand on their own without a large American presence in Afghanistan.

"One in three U.S. veterans of the post-9/11 military believes the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were not worth fighting, and a majority think that after 10 years of combat America should be focusing less on foreign affairs and more on its own problems, according to an opinion survey released Wednesday.

The findings highlight a dilemma for the Obama administration and Congress as they...

"If we lose the devout Afghan Pashtuns and start seeing large swaths of Pashtun society siding openly with the Taliban against us, while savage intercommunal hostilities break out among Afghanistan's peoples, then we will have to debate withdrawing from Central Asia. But we haven't seen that. And unless we withdraw--or persist in a counterproductive military strategy (which, thanks to the...

An analysis of the drug-war in Afghanistan, and its potential to help shut down the Taliban.

"As the 2012 State of the Union approaches, the public continues to give the highest priority to economic issues. Fully 86% say that strengthening the economy should be a top priority for the president and Congress this year, and 82% rate improving the job situation as a top priority. None of the other 20 issues tested in this annual survey rate as a top priority for more than 70% of Americans...

One of the strategy changes pushed for by the Obama administration was the cessation of creation of F-22 fighter jets, a decision voted on and passed by the Senate in July of 2009.

"The step was a reversal of the Taliban’s longstanding public denials that they were involved in, or even willing to consider, talks related to their insurgency, and it had the potential to revive a reconciliation effort that stalled in September, with the assassination of the head of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council."

This article analyzes the overall philosophy of defeating terrorism. It criticizes the idea that greater prosperity in Afghanistan and Pakistan (or other parts of the Middle East) will rid the world of Islamic terrorism.

Obama and Brown rely on a hypnotising policy language which can - and perhaps will - be applied as easily to Somalia or Yemen as Afghanistan.

"In one of the most egregious violations of the First Amendment's guarantee of free speech seen in quite some time, Tarek Menanna, an American Muslim, was convicted this week in a federal court in Boston and then sentenced yesterday to 17 years in prison. He was found guilty of supporting Al Qaeda (by virtue of translating Terrorists' documents into English and expressing 'sympathetic views'...

"We believe that the United States has a powerful national interest in Afghanistan, in depriving Al Qaeda of a safe haven on either side of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. This country would also do enormous damage to its moral and strategic standing if it now simply abandoned the Afghan people to the Taliban’s brutalities. But, like many Americans, we are increasingly confused and anxious...

"Improvised explosive devices, or I.E.D.'s, are home-made bombs. Often used by insurgent groups or rebels who wage non-traditional warfare, they can be made from almost any material and are designed to kill or maim."

"In a major milestone toward ending a decade of war in Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said Wednesday that American forces would step back from a combat role there as early as mid-2013, more than a year before all American troops are scheduled to come home."

The U.S. Army wants to purchase nearly 1,900 infantry combat vehicles for an estimated $20 billion to replace an aging Bradley fleet that’s been vulnerable to roadside-bomb attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Refugee numbers give us a unique insight into violence and conflict around the world. Find out where refugees come from - and where they go."

"The US government has long maintained, reasonably enough, that a defining tactic of terrorism is to launch a follow-up attack aimed at those who go to the scene of the original attack to rescue the wounded and remove the dead. Morally, such methods have also been widely condemned by the west as a hallmark of savagery. Yet, as was demonstrated yet again this weekend in Pakistan, this has...

"US drones fired a barrage of missiles at a vehicle and a house in a Pakistani tribal area bordering Afghanistan on Saturday, killing at least five suspected militants, Pakistani officials said.

The strikes in the North Waziristan tribal area were the first since news that a top commander of the powerful Haqqani militant network was killed in a drone strike late last month, also in the...

"The recent assassination of political strongman Ahmed Wali Karzai put in plain sight for Americans something in Afghanistan that has been off the radar for many: drug-related corruption. Half-brother to the president and head of the elected provincial council in Kandahar, the late Karzai was known in southern Afghanistan for his wealth and power—both of which, some allege, he derived in part...

A short piece arguing that President Obama's policies in Iraq and Afghanistan, rather than altering the course of the war, simply reinforce Bush administration war tactics by making them official.

Chart or Graph

This chart graphs Afghan public opinion from 2005 to 2010 concerning the biggest threat to Afghanistan.

"The Taliban and other anti-government elements have been blamed for 2,080 civilians who were killed in Afghanistan last year - a sharp rise of 28% on 2009. This accounted for 75% of all deaths whereas pro-government forces totalled 440 civilian killings."

"At the end of March 2011, enemy attacks comprised approximately 70 percent of all security incidents."

According to this chart, the level of students enrolled in Afghan educational institutions has climbed from 2 million in 2002 to 8 million in 2011.

"Afghanistan’s economy is largely based on agriculture and services, as shown in Figure 3.28."

This chart provides various Afghan health statistics from 2003 to 2010. These statistics suggest that life expectancy dramatically increased during this time period, while infant mortality dramatically decreased.

"Overall, IED activity remained elevated during the reporting period."

"This map shows the location of every improvised explosive device (IED) attack logged by the database. It includes IED explosions and ambushes (where an explosion includes Taliban small arms fire and RPG attacks, for instance. It exculdes hoaxes and suicide bombers."

"The cumulative impact of ISAF operations on the insurgency will not be apparent until well into the 2011 traditional insurgency campaign season."

"During the reporting period, the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) continued to make significant progress, increasing in quantity, quality, and operational capacity."

" Of note, while heroin seizures are down, targeted seizures tied to on-going narcotics trafficking investigations are up."

"This is the Microsoft PowerPoint slide which drove US military General Stanley McChrystal to declare that 'When we understand that slide, we'll have won the war' at a briefing in Kabul. It led to big questions about the world's reliance on the presentation software but illustrated the challenge facing Nato there."

"Pakistan does have border problems, however: with Afghanistan, where al Qaeda and the Taliban have reconstituted themselves."

"As of the end of 2011 there were roughly 91,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. These figures include troops under ISAF and Operation Enduring Freedom."

"The war in Iraq has cost the US $823.2bn since 2003 - and in 2011 cost $49.3bn, only $4bn less than 2003 when the invasion happened."

"As of September 30, 2011, cumulative appropriations for relief and reconstruction in Afghanistan totaled approximately $72.91 billion."

"When asked which country represents the greatest danger to the U.S., more Americans volunteer Iran (28%) than name any other country, though nearly as many (22%) name China."

"The following graphic lists the ten most/least corrupt countries based on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index for 2011. The Corruption Perception Index assigns countries and territories with scores between 0 (highly corrupt) and 10 (very clean)."

This chart describes the increase in troop deaths in Afghanistan since the U.S. began operations there in 2001.

"'Mobile money' is the use of cell phones to store currency and pay for goods and services electronically, using short message service (SMS)."

Number of troops contributed by NATO nations in Afghanistan as of 2008.

"The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) is a NATO-led security mission in Afghanistan established by the United Nations Security Council in December of 2001. The graphic below shows the gradual increase in number of ISAF forces over a 10-year period. It also breaks down the number of fatalities suffered by nationality."

"The recent tensions over Iran’s nuclear program and disputes between the U.S. and Iran in the Persian Gulf have garnered a good deal of public attention."

"A majority (56%) says U.S. troops should be brought home from Afghanistan as soon as possible; 38% say troops should remain there until the situation has stabilized."

"RC-SW had the highest level of violent activity among regional commands; however, in the first quarter of 2011, its relative share of overall violence was slightly reduced due to on-going operations in Regional Commands South and East."

"The public also continues to say the effort in Afghanistan is going at least fairly well (55%), with Republicans (62%) and Democrats (55%) about equally likely to say it is going well."

"The Afghan government has continued to improve its ability to collect revenue."

"According to DoS’s 'Country Report on Terrorism 2010,' the number of terrorist attacks in Iraq dropped by more than 10% from 2009 to 2010. But as a percentage of all attacks worldwide, violence in Iraq increased by more than 5%. Table 4.5 shows attacks since 2006."

This chart demonstrates the number of private contractor deaths since the U.S. began Afghanistan operations in 2001.

"Total security incidents were higher from October 2010 through March 2011 compared to the corresponding period in 2009-2010."

"To fulfill SIGAR’s legislative mandate, this section details the status of U.S. funds appropriated, obligated, and disbursed for reconstruction activities in Afghanistan."

"As noted in a number of SIGAR’s quarterly reports, it is not possible to definitively measure progress toward the U.S. goal of increasing employment in the agriculture sector or any other sector because of the lack of available data."

"The Pew survey found that veterans are ambivalent about the net value of the wars, although they generally were more positive about Afghanistan, which has been a more protracted but less deadly conflict for U.S. forces."

"The ability to visit a foreign country without the cost and hassle of obtaining a visa is a welcome bonus for any traveller."

"The UNHCR says that 'by the end of 2010, three quarters of the world's refugees were residing in a country neighbouring their own' - neighbouring Pakistan and Iran were the refuge for over 2.7m Afghans in 2010."

Analysis Report White Paper

As the United States prepares to exit Afghanistan, the nation must begin to face some serious problems. Government corruption is out of control, poverty is still rampant, and the drug market (particularly opium) is thriving.

"Although the footnotes to the Afghanistan Index document our sources in detail, it is worth noting here a few broad points. The majority of our information comes from the U.S. Government, though we must often analyze it and process it further to show trends over the full period since 2001."

"In 2007, Afghanistan cultivated 193,000 hectares of opium poppies, an increase of 17% over last year. The amount of Afghan land used for opium is now larger than the corresponding total for coca cultivation in Latin America (Colombia, Peru and Bolivia combined)."

Following policy reviews in 2009, the Obama Administration asserted that it was pursuing a well-resourced and integrated military-civilian strategy intended to pave the way for a gradual transition to Afghan leadership that will begin in July 2011 and be completed by the end of 2014.

"The boom in drones has stirred a variety of concerns among critics, but the greatest has been over strikes carried out covertly by the CIA under a classified, but widely reported, program of strikes against suspected militants inside Pakistan.

Coalition efforts in Afghanistan have suffered from a disjointed and poorly coordinated approach among the different NATO contributors and an overall lack of resources to achieve mission objectives.


"Czech troops may stay in Afghanistan until the end of 2014. Defence Minister Alexandr Vondra, who is in the United States on a working visit, said he would ask the Czech Parliament to extend their mandate by another 24 months, as their current mandate will expire by the end of the year. However, the opposition has criticized Mr Vondra for announcing his plans without a prior debate in the...

Senator John McCain will deliver a major policy address at AEI on the path to victory in Afghanistan.

"Between 2004 and 2009, data released by Wikileaks last year shows 24,498 deaths - over 4,000 of them civilians caught up in the conflict. As Barack Obama announces a drawdown of US troops there, we have taken that data and mapped it."

"When President Barack Obama cited cost as a reason to bring troops home from Afghanistan, he referred to a $1 trillion price tag for America's wars.

Staggering as it is, that figure grossly underestimates the total cost of wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan to the U.S. Treasury and ignores more imposing costs yet to come, according to a study released on Wednesday.

The final...

Kaj Larsen looks at the heroin industry in Afghanistan--the world's largest producer of heroin.

A discussion with the Supreme Allied Commander concerning the troop surge called for a the NATO summit in April, Obama's response, and the rather lukewarm response from other NATO allies, including Britain.

Primary Document

A speech by Lisa Curtis, a Senior Research Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, supporting President Obama's new initiatives in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"When Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates came to his post two years ago, he recognized a glaring deficiency in the defense budgeting process: 'Those fighting the current war had no seat at the budget table at all.' ...

That’s changed significantly, Gates told Pentagon reporters today in discussing the fiscal 2011 budget requests, as well as the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review and...

An analysis of the effectiveness of international troops in the continuing war in Afghanistan, the NATO alliance's first "out-of-area mission beyond Europe."

"NATO's Heads of State and Government at the Alliance's 60th Anniversary Summit meeting in Strasbourg-Kehl, announced today the establishment of a NATO Training Mission for Afghanistan (NTM-A).

"I am pleased to submit SIGAR’s quarterly report to the Congress on the U.S. reconstruction effort in Afghanistan. This report details SIGAR’s oversight activities and provides an update on the status of reconstruction programs since our July 30, 2011 report.

"Since the last Report on Progress Toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan, International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and its Afghan partners have made tangible progress, arresting the insurgents’ momentum in much of the country and reversing it in a number of important areas. The coalition’s efforts have wrested major safe havens from the insurgents’ control, disrupted their...

Issued by the Heads of State and Government participating in the meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Strasbourg.

The U.S. Army plans to spend about an additional $34 billion in 2013 dollars to develop and purchase a new armored vehicle for its infantry, the Ground Combat Vehicle (GCV).

"In April 2009, then-Secretary of Defense Gates announced he intended to significantly restructure the Army's Future Combat System (FCS) program. The FCS was a multiyear, multibillion dollar program that had been underway since 2000 and was at the heart of the Army's transformation efforts. In lieu of the cancelled FCS manned ground vehicle (MGV), the Army was directed to develop a ground...

"If the administration cannot create an effective, stable, legitimate state and cannot defeat a Taliban insurgency it must find another method of protecting US national security and fulfilling our obligations to the Afghan people. And if it is impossible to build a state or defeat the Taliban, there is no point in deploying a hundred thousand troops or spending hundreds of billions of dollars...

"The United States seeks a relationship with Russia based on cooperation in the pursuit of mutual interests and a frank and open discussion of disagreements based on mutual respect as the two countries seek to address the shared challenges of the 21st century."

"The United States established diplomatic relations with Uzbekistan in 1992 following its independence from the Soviet Union."

"Unmanned aircraft are commonly called unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and when combined with ground control stations and data links, form UAS, or unmanned aerial systems."

"The United States has a vital national security interest in addressing the current and potential security threats posed by extremists in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In Pakistan, al Qaeda and other groups of jihadist terrorists are planning new terror attacks. Their targets remain the U.S. homeland, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Europe, Australia, our allies in the Middle East, and other targets...




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