Cuts to USAID Would Imperil the United States

Cuts to USAID Would Imperil the United States by Mona Yacoubian, Foreign Policy

President Donald Trump’s proposal to slash the U.S. foreign aid budget by 37 percent threatens to undermine U.S. national security. While touting his budget as critical “to keep Americans safe,” the president’s strategy is shortsighted and fails to recognize the critical role international development assistance plays in addressing complex global security challenges. Indeed, the proposed budget sells short the president’s stated top national security priority, “to demolish and destroy” the Islamic State. Hard-won victories against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria will be short-lived in the absence of well-funded civilian assistance, which is an indispensable tool in the long-term battle against extremism.

While the soft power aspect of U.S. development assistance is important, increasingly the work performed by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and others must be recognized as a strategic asset that is no less powerful than the military in confronting multifaceted challenges, and for a fraction of the cost — less than one percent of the total federal budget. Indeed, in a letter to Congress last month, more than 120 retired military leaders underscored their “strong conviction that elevating and strengthening diplomacy and development are critical to keeping America safe.” Recognizing the complexity of crises in the 21st century world, they noted that these problems “do not have military solutions alone.” Nowhere is this more apparent than the Arab world, which suffers from the Islamic State’s barbaric extremism; wrenching conflicts in Libya, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen; and massive refugee flows to Lebanon, Jordan, and beyond. Youth unemployment, poverty, corruption, and unaccountable governance add to the region’s volatility…

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Much of the funding for the Taliban came from USAID and other US Gov programs via ghost workers, taxes on projects and outrageous markups. Most US military didn't realize that their projects (and USAID's) were usually approved by local Taliban commanders who in some cases provided elaborate letters of approval to local villages. The need/ desire for high profile security- complete with forcing locals off the roads, throwing things at motorists while yelling obscenities and occasionally shooting innocent people negated whatever good the project being visited theoretically provided.

I suppose you could argue that since the Taliban never "imperiled" the US it doesn't matter but overall USAIDs and other US gov development activities overall had at best no effect in Afghanistan and probably hurt.