(U.S.) Foreign Service Journal, June 2019
Insights into US Afghanistan policy by the former acting deputy assistant secretary for Afghanistan and deputy chief of mission in Kabul – not that we did not know, but good to have it in writing, from ‘the horse’s mouth’:
The turnover of U.S. diplomats and military officials, and our short political attention span at home, stand in contrast to the long-term nature of the problems we try to solve. We have had a succession of sometimes mutually exclusive goals and approaches. One example is our love-hate relationship with fighting corruption, which we pursue vigorously— except, unfortunately, when we don’t (in the name of security).
An example of this inconsistency is our support for regional strongman Atta Noor, a former governor of Balkh province. If we care about corruption, he should be reined in from his activities, including dominance over border and customs revenues. But for stability’s sake, we keep him on our side to head off even more Russian influence in Afghanistan’s north. (…)
When I was at post in 2010, success was based on how much foreign assistance per month was “burned,” because that proved that the civilian effort was as serious as the military one.(That is a metric we now regret when faced with inspection reports showing how hastily designed some of our programs were, and how we should have watched our U.S. and local contractors more carefully.)
This article was last updated on 9 Mar 2020