Small Wars Journal

Promises to Keep?

In an essay at Foreign Affairs, Gayle Tzemach Lemmon asks if we truly understand the costs of the promises we have made in Afghanistan, even given the 2014 withdrawal timeline.


The administration must come clean about what international forces can and can't execute before world leaders assemble later this month at the NATO summit in Chicago to discuss the future of Afghanistan. If this gathering is to be more than an exchange of lofty speeches and question-riddled commitments, it is time to take a hard and realistic look at the promises that the United States and others are making to Afghanistan -- and whether they are too big to keep.

...In [the recently signed strategic agreement with Afghanistan], Obama affirmed the United States' commitment to direct financial support to Afghanistan's economic development. But whether the U.S. Congress will continue to underwrite such funding is far from certain, since dollars will have to be approved each year through the traditional congressional appropriations process. Presumably there will be no funding workaround possible, since Overseas Contingency Operations funding will likely end in 2014. ...

In the United States, the war's popularity has fallen steadily since Obama entered office, reaching a nadir in April, when only 30 percent of Americans polled said that the war in Afghanistan "has been worth fighting." In the coming months, and, should he win a second term, the coming years, Obama will have to expend political capital to convince the American public that the billions poured into South Asia are an investment in global security, not a zero-sum game that needlessly depletes already strained U.S. coffers, as so many of his own party have argued.

Read it all here.

Categories: NATO - Afghanistan


Peter you say Ms. Lemmon "asks if we truly understand the costs of the promises we have made in Afghanistan, even given the 2014 withdrawal timeline." We do. Absolutely. We know we won't pay the costs nor honor the promises. We are simply lying to the Afghans.


Sun, 05/13/2012 - 9:50am

Interesting read, see another interesting article relative to this discussion at,…

In 11 May's issue of the WSJ, "the warriors eye view of Afghanistan" by H.R. McMaster, H.R. McMaster discusses how damaging corruption can be and how important it is to track funds. It is interesting that both your blog and the WSJ article mention pouring funding into South Asia. H.R. McMaster insightfully writes about his last job in Afghanistan with the focus on threat finance.

With some purview to this type of "pouring in funds" both in Iraq and Afghanistan, including some exerperience with with contracting. It is disturbing to me how much money is spent on nation building, especially considering the current economic environment.

In Afghanistan, one interesting thing that occurred during 2010-2011 was the historic local news that one Afghan tried to pay taxes in Kandahar. The Afghans were astounded that someone would show up to the "tax office" to try to pay their fair share.

So, how do the Afghans generate revenue for their Government and security forces? How can they sustain what we are building there? That is one of the huge problems we face. H.R. McMaster's article doesn't mention that, like you so astutely pointed out in your blog. Nearly all the funds are those provided by U.S. Taxpayers.

Paul R. Smith
U.S. Army Officer-All views are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S., U.S. Army or Department of Defense