I am skimming through Ahmed Rashid’s Pakistan on the Brink: The Future of America, Pakistan, and Afghanistan (2012). Here are a few tidbits that stood out to me.
On the economy:
The World Bank, in a 2011 report, said that 97 percent of Afghanistan’s economy was related to international military spending and that once troops pulled out, it would experience a massive depression (92).
I’ve heard some people justify the War in Afghanistan as an overall success because of how certain metrics have shown economic growth and development; this is certainly a strong, brutal counter-point to that.
US commanders in the field were given cash so they could influence the local people. For the “Commanders Emergency Response Program”, a budget of $40 million was initially set aside. By 2008 this had grown to $750 million and by 2010 it was $1 billion, which is more than the entire revenue of the Karzai government. Nobody was consulted on how these vast free-flowing funds were to be spent. The money was “spent by military personnel without professional experience or knowledge” and without consultations with the relevant Afghans or civilian aid experts, said the UN’s Kai Eide (104).
And another brutal counter-point to alleged US-lead “development” in Afghanistan. And actually, the massive presence of the US military machine in Afghanistan should force us to rethink how to picture Afghan political economy and its position in imperialism, particularly when we take statistics like those above in conjunction with reports that currently, CIA-run paramilitary groups essentially control entire provinces.
And an illustrative note on the war in Pakistan:
…between 2002 and 2010, 2,272 Pakistani soldiers had been killed and 6,512 had been injured, while 73 ISI officers had been killed–far higher casualties than those suffered by the Americans or NATO in Afghanistan (150).
This underpins one of the most important lessons from the book, which is the general overlap between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and non-existence of the border when it comes to separating conflicts, networks, and politics in the two countries. Of course, this has been the case since the Afghanistan war in the ’80s, but it doesn’t seem like anybody really talks about the fact that the current war has spiraled into Pakistan in a dramatic way.