Afghanistan Marshall Plan is without a Plan.

After the establishment of President Karzai’s government in Afghanistan there was talk of the need for implementation of a plan much like the Marshall Plan for post Second World War Europe. What happened next was pledges of billions of dollars towards the recovery of Afghanistan and actual expenditure of millions in that country, but no Marshall Plan.

Lets see if we could draw parallels between the time of the Marshall Plan and the Afghan Compact and stresses the need for more emphasis on measurement of plan achievements, finding of bottlenecks in an effort to convince both the world and the Afghans themselves that the government is on the right track. The United States and the United Nations must make sure that the flow of aid into Afghanistan is transparent and meets the real goals of the people and although a plan like the Marshall Plan did not materialize in the case of Afghanistan, still some semblance of it is ensured in the form of the Afghan Compact. This would also prevent further erosion of popularity of the Afghan government.

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Soon after the United States in its war on terror rained bombs of every magnitude on Afghanistan in 2001 to oust the Taleban regime from power for its support of Osama Bin Laden, a transitional government devised at a meeting in Bonn, Germany, was put in place to embark on the difficult task of nation building and recovery. This was followed by a series of meetings in Europe and Japan and elsewhere where the international community pledged huge amounts of
money for the Afghan reconstruction. The most recent one being the Delhi Conference of last week. There was even talk that this would be an effort much like the recovery program for Europe at the end of World War II.

The 1947 marshall plan took four years during which time about $13 billion in economic and technical aid was given to help the recovery efforts in the European countries that had opted to become members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, consisting of about twenty countries.

Los Angeles Times in an article on November 12, 2006 writes: “After the United States joined forces with Afghanistan’ s Northern Alliance militia to oust the Taliban regime, it pledged to help rebuild the country and chose Karzai to lead the effort. Since then, foreign donors have spent at least $16 billion in Afghanistan.” The contrast is clear. When in a given period of four years the
Marshall Plan helped revitalize the economy of many European countries while strengthening the industrial strength of the United States itself and furthering its designs for combating communism, the post 9/11 plans of the United States and its allies supported by the United Nations for the recovery of one country, Afghanistan, is still in limbo.

So what happened to the money spent in Afghanistan and the amounts promised and never delivered? Some of the answers could be found in the fact that Afghanistan has changed into a kind of a black hole, where money is reported spend with little to show for it. Two major areas regarding this black hole of expenditures include military expenses -that consists mainly of expenditures of keeping a fighting army of say 40,000 troops in a foreign land, and the
other one is money spent to pay for the salaries of a developing army and police as steps necessary in nation building exercises. While it is true that spectacular achievements have been scored in Afghanistan in the past over five years-like over 90 percent of school age children are enrolled in schools, an increase in Afghanistan’s exports and development in trade and commerce, yet the bottlenecks of insecurity and corruption have severely overshadowed those
initial successes. On the other hand, an initial lack of a solid plan for development and a mechanism to oversee its implementation, lack of expertise in planning and plan implementation and lack of coordination among thousands of organizations mostly NGOs with government programs have all proven obstacles in rapid recovery. All of these in turn have served as a vicious circle further deteriorating the conditions in the country and eroding the initial popularity of its elected president.

During the Marshall Plan implementation, qualified experts and businessmen oversaw all steps in planning and its implementation. They were able to establish priorities based on each country’s needs and made sure the money was received promptly and spent according to the plan. In Afghanistan for the first four years no plan was available. Only in February this year, Afghanistan Compact was put together in an effort to convince donors at the London Conference
that there was a five-year plan available. This time a Joint Coordinating and Monitoring Body (JCMB) was established with two co-chairmen, an advisor to president Karzai and a representative of the UN Secretary general. The Body last Sunday concluded its third quarterly session while the visiting United Nations Security Council delegation was also in attendance. It is customary that in meetings of this caliber there are a lot of sugarcoating that is practiced. However speaking on the occasion, Professor Nadiri one of the co-chairs of JCMB said there was recognition on all sides that the Compact must remain on track. He said: “We need to see a strong and coordinated effort by the Afghan government and the international community to meet the challenges ahead.”
The meeting recognized insecurity and corruption as obstacles to plan implementation and its other co-chair Mr. Koenigs said: “The international community must give strong backing for the government’s anti-corruption measures and focus on improving aid effectiveness so that more people benefit as development projects roll out across Afghanistan. ” “We can and must cement peace, stability and progress for all Afghans,” he said.

The United States and the United Nations must make sure that the flow of aid into Afghanistan is transparent and meets the real goals of the people and although a plan like the Marshall Plan did not materialize in the case of Afghanistan, still some semblance of it is ensured in the form of the Afghan Compact.

Obviously there is a need for the scrutiny of plan implementation and measurement of achievements or failures regarding all of the goals established by the Compact. However, there is little that is published or known on that score. President Karzai has taken an additional step of establishing of a high level Policy Action Group which so far has focused on the security situation in the south of the country. The latter body can also play an important role regarding efforts for the reconstruction of the country focusing not only on regional problems inside the country, but also taking all other factors into consideration and providing of effective action directives to all ministries of the government in measurable endeavors towards achievement of the Compact goals.

It is also important that the United States, the main benefactor of Afghanistan’s government should try to prevent further erosion of President Karzai’s popularity by helping convince his countrymen that he is his own man, that he has a larger say in the military conduct of international forces in his country and to make sure that his army and police are developed to their full strength and are made capable to enforce the writ of the government all over the country. It is also time to realize that for any recovery effort peace and security serve as important prerequisites and that economic prosperity breeds peace and prevents violence.

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