Page 2 of 3   <       >

Nation-Building on the Cheap

That's surprising, given the amount of aid we've been told has gone to Afghanistan.

In the 2004 Berlin conference, the figure agreed on for securing Afghanistan's future came to $28 billion over seven years. But how much was really invested? You know, a pledge does not mean that this money is going to be available.

What percentage of the aid money is actually reaching Afghanistan?

In some cases [of specific contracts], I was told less than 30 percent.

There is a general belief here that things are getting better in Afghanistan. You seem to be saying that maybe isn't true.

If you compare Afghanistan today with three years ago, you can definitely see some progress. You don't see warlords challenging the central government. In 2003, I wanted to bring changes to the center of Paktia province, Gardez, but a few thugs were ruling that province. It took us a lot to replace them. New people we sent in had to go with a contingent of police. Now you don't see that kind of situation in Afghanistan. But there are still so many other problems, and together they keep Afghanistan weak. I believe the international community should realize that stabilizing Afghanistan and keeping it from becoming a failed state again cannot be achieved on the cheap.

Has that been done on the cheap so far?

Yes.

What do you make of the announced reductions in American troops in Afghanistan, and their replacement by NATO forces?

A drawdown in Afghanistan would send a very negative message. Already, some people in Afghanistan speculate that the United States is again abandoning Afghanistan. The Taliban and some neighboring countries are playing a waiting game, saying the United States will leave one day. Taliban commanders are often quoted in Afghanistan saying, "The Americans have the clocks, we have the time."

The Iraq war started soon after you arrived back in Kabul. How did that war change the war you were fighting?

There were intangible impacts -- especially the shift in attention. And the attacks against American and coalition forces in Iraq encouraged some people in Afghanistan, and in Pakistan, to think, "Okay, we can do the same thing in Afghanistan."


<       2        >

© 2006 The Washington Post Company