Showing posts with label development. Show all posts
Showing posts with label development. Show all posts

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Roads of Afghanistan Falling Apart

The U.S. and other nations provided lots of funding for the construction of roads throughout Afghanistan. The improvement of the ring road that traverses the country is one great accomplishment. However, there is a problem. With the withdrawal of Coalition forces the various aid and development groups no longer have oversight (lack of access) on road construction projects and funding for the maintenance of the roads is greatly diminished. So many of the roads built are no longer being maintained. In addition, what little funding earmarked for road maintenance is squandered by the various Afghan ministries responsible for road upkeep. Read more in "The U.S. spent billions building roads in Afghanistan. Now many of them are beyond repair", The Washington Post, October 30, 2016.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Ambassador Olson (AfPak) Presents Narrative

On Thursday, September 29th, Ambassador Richard Olson (Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan) presented his views about Afghanistan's security, future, government, and the upcoming Brussels Conference at the John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. Some points the ambassador made are provided below.

Security. The Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) are improving over time. The Taliban have not been able to take and hold a significant population center and have not achieved their strategic goals during 2016.

National Unity Government (NUG). Ambassador Olson says the National Unity Government is not perfect but it is the best way forward at this time. Both the Afghan President and Afghan CEO remain committed to conducting elections in the future. The United States will continue to stand behind and support the Afghan government. The U.S. is encouraging the Afghan government to institute governmental reforms, hold elections, and conduct a constitutional Loya Jirga.

Brussels Conference. The Afghan agenda will guide the international agenda at the Brussels Conference for the future of Afghanistan's security and development. The Resolute Support mission was extended by NATO in July at the Warsaw Summit. The Brussels Conference will provide a guide to the future development needs of Afghanistan. The antecendent for Brussels was the Tokyo Conference four years ago. Olson said international support is conditional and conditioned; not a blank check.

Afghan Interpreters. He waffles here. Says all the right things but . . . offers little concrete suggestions on how to improve the situation for more SIV for the Afghans who put their lives at risk for the U.S. military.

Lots of other topics were discussed during the question and answer session about India, NUG, peace deal with HIG, Pakistan, conditionality of continued funding by donor nations, economy, anti-corruption, refugees, and more. An informative presentation and Q&A on lots of topics; but beware of the party line when he talks about security, corruption, and progress in Afghanistan.

You can view the conference at the link below:

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Lost Temple City At Risk from Mining Operation

Mes Aynak is one of Central Asia's largest Buddhist ruins. It is located about a 90 minute drive south-east of Kabul in the hills of Logar province (Logar province is highlighted in red at left). A team of archaeologists are running out of time to save the ancient artifacts before a Chinese copper mining operation starts to rip up the soil destroying the ancient site. Read more in "Race to save lost temple city at risk from its own wealth", by Andrew Lawler, New Scientist, Sep 2015.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Reports on Afghanistan

Geospatial Analysis and Reconstruction in Afghanistan. As international troops and observers pull out of Afghanistan and concentrate their personnel in Kabul there is less and less oversight on the money being spent on reconstruction, development, and economic projects across Afghanistan. "Geospatial analysis and mapping have a critical role to play in the reconstruction efforts in conflict-affected regions." A report by David Mansfield is available that explains this topic in detail. Read Effective Monitoring and Evaluation in Conflict-Affected Environments: Afghanistan Post-2014, United States Institute of Peace (USIP), November 12, 2015.

Asia Foundation Survey - Afghanistan 2015. Each year the Asia Foundation conducts a countrywide survey of the Afghan people. This annual survey provides insight into the views of Afghans on issues central to the country's development. Conducted in June 2015 with almost 10,000 Afghan citizens representing 14 ethnic groups and all 34 provinces - this year's survey includes new questions on youth, ISIL/ISIS, women in leadership, and mobile phone access - as well as the standard questions on security, governance and development.
"Afghan optimism about the overall direction of the country and confidence in government fell to their lowest point in a decade, while fear for personal safety increased to a record high. Afghans cite deteriorating security, unemployment, and corruption for the main reasons for their pessimism."
Paper - Cultural Frictions and Mentoring the ANA. The Afghan National Army Officer Academy (ANAOA) - sometimes referred to as "Sandhurst in the Sand" - is hopefully providing Afghanistan with future leaders who can help the nation forward in this very serious security environment. This paper ". . . traces coalition force mentors from their pre-deployment training at Sandhurst, to their deployment at ANAOA and finally to post-deployment, in order to explore their experiences of mentorship." One aspect of successful mentoring (training, advising, . . . call it what you wish) is that the mentor needs to bridge the cultural divide. It is important to recognize the discrepancy between the promotion of Western values and the emphasis on local ownership. A 'must read' paper if you are heading to or currently in Afghanistan as an advisor. Read "Cultural Frictions: Mentoring the Afghan Army at 'Sandhurst in the Sand'", Small Wars Journal, by Maya Mynster Christensen and Cecilie Odgaard Jakobsen, November 19, 2015.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Afghan War News Snippets

MEC Releases Statement on Foreign Assistance. The Independent Joint Anti-Corruption Monitoring and Evaluation Committee (MEC) released its Review of Selected Foreign-Assistance Programs implemented in Afghanistan. MEC examined a number of projects ranging from road construction to health care services and has formulated some recommendations for some best practices in implementing foreign aid programs. Read the news release by MEC, November 8, 2015. The full report can be read here.

NATO and Afghanistan - Pondering. The recent fall of Kunduz City and the Taliban resurgence across northern Afghanistan and Helmand province has NATO member nations concerned. Read more in "NATO ponders future of Afghan mission as fatigue, frustration mount", Reuters, November 8, 2015.

Medal of Honor Received by Army Captain. CPT Florent Groberg confronted a suicide bomber in Regional Command East in August 2012. Four Americans would die in the attack, but because of the CPT's brave actions, many were saved. (The Washington Post, Nov 12, 2015).

Black Widows Now at Bagram. Some F16s are now at Bagram Airfield with the intention of giving the Taliban some nightmares. Or at least that is what the Air Force Times headline says in a recent news report (November 9, 2015).

Afghanistan in 2015: A Survey of the Afghan People. This annual survey will be available on November 17th for download courtesy of The Asia Foundation.

Reaper Madness. Here's another 'anti-drone' news report regurgitating yet another 'anti-drone' report. No surprise here - "Reaper Madness: Obama's Whack-a-Mole Killing Machine", Counterpunch, November 9, 2015.

M9 - Useful, Vanity or Just More Convenient? A short article providing one man's perspective on the pistol carried by Soldiers. Some say it is not very useful and more of a vanity weapon. Others say it is more convenient on FOBs where everyone has to carry a weapon. It is certainly easier going to the dining facility with a pistol rather than the M16. For those folks advising the Afghan National Security Forces during the summer of 2012 it was a good force protection weapon inside buildings and during meetings in light of the insider attacks that were occurring. Read more in "Army Culture: The M9 as Vanity Weapon",, August 20, 2014.

LT Hurst at Resolute Support HQs. One Soldier describes his job as providing ". . . everything from bullets to body armor". Read about the 'go-to guy' at RS HQs in Kabul. (Providence Journal, Nov 11, 2015).

Marine Describes Job & Life at RS HQs Camp. He works as an advisor to the Afghan Local Police Special Operations Advisory Group in developing ALP officers throughout the country. (Santa Clara Weekly, Nov 2015).

Former BG Advisor to 201st Corps Fired. LTG Ron Lewis, an aide to SecDef Carter was fired from his job on Thursday. Lewis had served (when a BG) as the principal advisor to the commander of 201st Corps in RC East (now TAAC-East). (Military Times, Nov 12, 2015).

Kinetic Strikes via UAVs. A writer, Scott N. Romaniuk, examines the use of drones for surveillance and targeting killings (TK) in CT and COIN environments. Read "Targeted Killings, Drones, and the Myth of Precision", Geopolitical Monitor, November 8, 2015.

War Story Afghanistan - A Canadian Documentary Series. Learn more about Canada's contribution to the fight in Central Asia. (Radio Canada International, November 8, 2015).

Heroin Crisis in the States. Afghanistan provides 90% of the opium needed to make heroin. A recent paper by RAND Corporation provides some info on the epidemic and what can be done in Afghanistan to stem the flow of drugs.  Read "Opioid Rising: How to Stop the World's Growing Heroin Crisis", RAND Corporation, October 20, 2015.

Russia Assists in Diplomatic Training. The embassy of the Russian Federation in Kabul launched a scholarship programme for the diplomatic staff of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan. Ten diplomats will attend a two-week long training program in Moscow the latter part of November. (Khaama Press, Nov 12, 2015).

Can Diplomacy Work? The anticipated drop in fighting expected with the winter season has prompted international and regional partners to once again encourage a revival of Afghan peace talks. Read more in "Afghanistan Stakeholders Push Diplomacy", Voice of America, November 13, 2015.

An Advisor in Kunar Province. An Army officer, Andrew Plucker, recounts his time as an advisor to an ANA brigade in a dangerous part of Afghanistan. Read "Two officers, two nations, one mission", USC News, November 11, 2015.

JCLIS. The Fall 2015 issue of the Journal of Culture, Language and International Security (JCLIS) is now available online. In this special issue the writers take a hard look at the DoD's Language, Regional Expertise, and Culture (LREC) program. Posted by the Institute for the Study of Culture and Language, Norwich University.

Afghans Leaving? Thomas Ruttig of the Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN) has penned a piece detailing the ongoing departure of Afghans for Europe. Read "An 'Afghan Exodus': Facts, figures, trends", AAN, November 14, 2015.

AREU Paper on Kandahar Economy. The Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit has published a paper (Nov 15) on the Kandahar economy since 9/11.

Lithuania May Up Troop Level. Currently the plan for Lithuania troop levels in 2017 is for 20 personnel. However, that may be raised to 50. They would work in the areas of logistics, communications, and staff in the Kabul area. Read more in "Lithuania to increase troops in Afghanistan", The Baltic Times, November 9, 2015.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Paper - COIN and Strategic Development

The Small Wars Journal has posted an informative paper by Jeff Goodson about the socioeconomic development part of the overall military campaign strategy for Afghanistan during the years 2010 to 2012. Goodson is a retired US Foreign Service Officer who worked for USAID for 29 years. He served 31 months in Afghanistan during the 2006-2012 timeframe and seventeen months as Director of STAB/Development at ISAF HQs in 2010 to 2012. In his paper he provides us information about the STAB/Development section of ISAF to include its mandate, its staff, the campaign plan, types of development, the focus on eight basic services programs, and more. He concludes his paper recommending a "COIN light" approach and states that socioeconomics will almost always play a role in a counterinsurgency and stability operations. Read the article entitled "Strategic Development and Irregular Warfare: Lessons from the High Water Mark of Full-Spectrum COIN", Small Wars Journal, August 16,2015.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Afghan Development and Aid News

SIGAR and Health Facilities. The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Oversight is questioning USAID's database for healthcare facilities. Seems the coordinates provided were many times erroneous - several not even in Afghanistan and with one in the Mediterranean Sea (SIGAR letter June 25, 2015). SIGAR and USAID have also clashed over a U.S.-financed $335 million power plant outside of Kabul which remains ineffective in creating energy stability (GOVEXEC, Jun 2015).

USAID has updated its Civilian-Military Cooperation Policy that was issued in July 2008. This updated policy, as of June 2015, establishes the foundation for interagency cooperation between USAID and the DoD. The policy provides guidance to the 'whole-of-government' approach to contemporary national security challenges such as humanitarian activities, stabilization operations, and counterinsurgency. The Defense in Depth Blog of the Council of Foreign Relations provides an analysis of this updated policy (CFR, Jul 8, 2015). The USAID document is available at the link below.

Delivering Aid and Afghan Corruption. Rick Cohen writes a piece about the corruption at the highest levels of Afghan government (can you say "Karzai"?) in Nonprofit Quarterly, July 8, 2015.

Most Dangerous Country in World for Aid Workers? Afghanistan, of course. Read more in Business Insider, July 16, 2015.

Afghan Schools Success Exaggerated? A National Public Radio report says that USAID reports of success are not verifiable. Read "Afghan Schools: Is the Success Story Exaggerated?", June 18, 2015. See also "How USAID Can Track "Ghost" Schools"Sunny in Kabul, June 29, 2015.

"Ghost Students, Ghost Teachers, Ghost Schools". A hard-hitting investigative report overcomes the information operations machine of ISAF to bring you the real truth on the status of Afghanistan's schools and how effective the U.S. school building effort really was (BuzzFeed News, July 9, 2015).

"Reach the Women". Gary Owen writes about the US military's experiment of female soldiers working with Afghan women. (Afghanistan Analysts Network, June 20, 2015).

Criticism of the National Solidarity Programme. There are some critics that say the NSP's Community Development Councils (CDCs) are lacking proper oversight. Read more in "Afghans Question Reconstruction Scheme"Institute for War & Peace Reporting, June 23, 2015.

Monday, April 27, 2015

CERP Funds Not Documented

One of the more successful development programs of the Afghan War was the use of Commander's Emergency Response Program (CERP). Unfortunately, due to faulty record keeping, much of the program is under a cloud - the U.S. forces are having trouble accounting for where a lot of the money went. This doesn't mean that the money was wasted (although I am sure a lot of that happened); it just means that it is hard to tell what it was spent on. This is not a surprising development. One of the problems with a unit rotation (instead of individual rotations) is that continuity is lost, electronic data files are purged, and units are forever reinventing the wheel. CERP managers, usually the Civil Affairs bubbas, were in the learning mode the first part of their rotation and sometimes they didn't get a great hand-off from their predecessor about CERP. Small wonder there are problems following the money. Read more in James Rosen's article of the McClatchy Washington Bureau dated April 23, 2015 entitled "More than $1 billion in U.S. emergency reconstruction aid goes missing in Afghanistan".

Friday, April 24, 2015

SIGAR Report: Vacant Kandahar Industrial Park

During an inspection SIGAR found one active business in the $7.8 million Shorandam Industrial Park in Kandahar. It was originally planned to accommodate 48 businesses. It appears that the set up of a power generator by U.S. forces on the industrial compound causes Afghan businesses to shy away from the site. The power generator is no longer there but the site still remains largely vacant. Read Shorandam Industrial Park: Poor Recordkeeping and Lack of Electricity Prevented a Full Inspection of this $7.8 Million Facility, SIGAR 15-50 Inspection Report, April 2015.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Panel Discussion - Private Sector Investment

John Hopkins University will be hosting a panel discussion entitled "Sounding the Bell: Opening the Market to Private Sector Investment in Afghanistan and Pakistan" on Thursday, April 16, 2015 from 4:00 pm to 5:30 pm (EDT). The panel event will explore how international aid organizations can partner with the private sector to support economic growth and promote foreign investment. The university and USAID are hosting and organizing the event. Panelists include:

Larry Sampler, USAID
Gulmaqsood Sabit, Ministry of Finance, Afghanistan
Dr. Asad Khan, Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of Pakistan
Arsalan Lutfi, Chief of Operations, Trivision
Dean White, President, Tetra Tech ES Inc.

You can access the webcast at this link "Sounding the Bell".

Saturday, March 21, 2015

TAPI Pipeline: Construction to Start in 2015

Pakistani and Indian press reports about the results of the March 15th TAPI pipeline meeting suggest a breakthrough has been achieved that would allow construction to begin as soon as 2015. It appears that progress was made on financial terms with Turkmenistan that allows the huge energy project to move forward. The export of gas products from Turkmenistan to the user nations of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India will benefit Afghanistan. One sticky problem is that the pipeline will flow through southern Afghanistan - and the security situation is far from good in that region. Read "A Breakthrough on the TAPI Pipeline?", by Micha'el Tanchum in The Diplomat, March 20, 2015.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

AREU - A to Z Guide to Assistance in Afghanistan 2015

The Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit (AREU) has published "The A to Z Guide to Assistance in Afghanistan 2015". This is a unique resource which aims to enhance the understanding of the actors, structures and government processes related to aid and reconstruction efforts in the country. The guide provides an extensive glossary of assistance terms, and overview of Afghanistan's system of government, key primary documents, political overview of all of the 34 provinces, and an extensive contacts directory that includes government agencies, NGOs, and international agencies. . . . AtoZGuide2015.pdf

Saturday, March 7, 2015

TAPI Pipeline and India's Marginalization

The Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline promises to bring economic growth and increased prosperity to the four countries participating in this natural gas project. The TAPI pipeline will move natural gas from Turkmenistan to the other three countries. Unfortunately politics, competition, and security are obstacles to be overcome. Current plans are for the much-delayed development project to be completed in 2018. India, once seen as a major benefactor and leader in the pipeline project, is becoming sidelined. Read more in "TAPI and India's Future in Eurasia", The Diplomat, February 27, 2015.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Paper - NGOs and PRTs in Afghanistan

"Members of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have been critical of the Provincial Reconstruction team (PRT) initiative in Afghanistan since its inception, claiming that the mixture of military and humanitarian operations has resulted in 'blurred lines' that inhibit insurgents from identifying who is and is not a combatant. Certain organizations have hypothesized that aid workers are more likely to come under attack as a result of this mixture. Although this claim has surfaced in multiple outlets over the years, there was a lack of empirical evidence to support it. This study tests this hypothesis using a panel-corrected standard error regression model of all 34 Afghan provinces in 2010 and 2011. Preliminary results show that NGOs were likely to encounter a greater number of security incidents in provinces with PRTs; however, further analysis reveals this was only the case in provinces with teams not led by the US. This calls into question the validity of a general 'blurred lines' explanation for decreased worker security."
Read "Blurred Lines? Provincial Reconstruction Teams and NGO Insecurity in Afghanistan", by David F. Mitchell in Stability: International Journal of Security & Development, 2010-2011, March 2015.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Foreign Investment in Afghanistan? Unlikely for Now

Everyone acknowledges that the Afghan economy, despite some bright spots here or there, is in trouble. Foreign investment is stalled and Afghan money is flowing to Dubai and other locations. According to the World Bank the country has the lowest Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the region with an average per capita annual income of around $670. Many are calling for government policies to encourage foreign investment but . . . with an ongoing insurgency that shows no signs of going away and a continuing problem with rampant corruption . . . it is unlikely that very much foreign investment will take place at a significant level. Read more in "Attracting Foreign Investments to Afghanistan: A Reality or Dream?", Khaama Press, December 27, 2014.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Review of London Conference

William Bryd, a development economist and senior expert on Afghanistan at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) has wrote an article (Dec 19, 2014) about the London Conference recently held in the United Kingdom. This conference was an important event for the future of Afghanistan. While the results of the conference were diminished because the Afghan government had not yet been formed; many positive gains were made and negative events averted. Read more in "Afghanistan: Struggling for Momentum in London".

Good News on Afghanistan

It is easy to be pessimistic about Afghanistan. We have spent tons of money and many of our military members have lost their lives or suffered life-long injuries. And for all of that we still have an enduring insurgency, outrageous corruption, a thriving drug trade, and Afghan security forces that don't understand counterinsurgency. However,  . . . a lot of good has come out of our very long stay in Afghanistan. Read more in "The good news in Afghanistan's Marshall Plan", by Mike Corones in Reuters, December 19, 2014.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Finnish Projects in Afghanistan at Risk

Finland devoted large amounts of money, time and effort to the Coalition mission in Afghanistan. Much of the Finnish work was done in northern Afghanistan. However, some of that work is coming undone. Insurgents have destroyed some of Finland's development aid projects and taken over others (to include district police stations). The Taliban have taken control of areas previously patrolled and secured by Finnish troops. The province of Faryab, once a Finnish occupied area (the Finns left in 2007), is now partially controlled by the Taliban. Read more in "Finnish development projects under fire in Afghanistan", Yle Uutiset (Finland media), December 18, 2014.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

CASA-1000 Project

The CASA-1000 project is an ambitious venture - supported by the United States - to have Central Asian countries export surplus electricity to Afghanistan and Pakistan during the summer months. While there are many critics of this program the U.S. State Department and USAID believe it will change the economic environment for Central Asia and specifically, Afghanistan. Read more in "Powering a New Silk Road: Helping Connect Supply with Demand in South and Central Asia", USAID Frontlines, November / December 2014.

Friday, November 21, 2014

SIGAR - Afghan Development Effort a Failure

The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) - John Sopko - has called America's development effort in Afghanistan a failure. Read more in "Sopko faults leadership for 'abysmal failure' in Afghanistan nation-building", Stars and Stripes, November 18, 2014.