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Even though the environment of Pakistan and Afghanistan differ markedly, as do U.S. goals in each country, it was remarkable to note the similarities in the two sets of recommendations. And it was reassuring to see that many of those recommendations reflect aid reform concepts that many of us have been advocating.
My takeaways from reading the two reports are:
Clarify the mission and the purpose of U.S. assistance and distinguish between short term goals (stabilization) and long term goals (economic growth).
Clarify who is in charge of development in Washington and the field. Whole-of-government sounds good, but to make it workable usually requires a whole new level of bureaucracy that in the end weakens development impact.
Establish realistic goals and measures for achieving these goals. The metric of how much money gets spent in a certain amount of time is not a measure of impact, let alone success.
The rationale for using aid to win hearts and minds is questionable. (And isn’t that the job of public diplomacy?)
Beware of the unintended consequences of aid programs, which can create unrealistic and unrealized expectations (Pakistan) or overwhelm and distort the economy (Afghanistan).
Both studies are realistic about the inherent problems that affect operations in difficult environments and advocate for the value of foreign assistance programs done right. In the end, it’s the “mend it, don’t end it” message that I hope is embraced by both the administration and Congress.
CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.
2014 is shaping up to be a pivotal year for US-Pakistan relations. The US will be pulling out of Afghanistan; the Strategic Dialogue is continuing; and Kerry-Lugar-Berman will expire. And these are just the knowns.
CGD’s Study Group on US Development Strategy in Pakistan has spent the past several years identifying where US development strategy in Pakistan has gone wrong—and identifying practical solutions for improvement. Following our latest Study Group meeting, Nancy Birdsall, president of CGD and chair of the study group, sent this open letter to Ambassador Jim Dobbins, the US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.