This unpublished UN document has come into my possession as director of the Afghan Marshall Plan Exit Strategy Project, dated June of this year. I can only say it was leaked to us through our contacts in Kabul. In it, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan has in great detail marked the way for a civilian solution in Afghanistan, as President Obama considers throwing more military at the problem. UNAMA is the cream of the international development corps, with depth and range of expertise in both war zones and peaceful environments. In this paper the Mission staff clearly delineates the goal of "reduc[ing] support to the insurgency."
Here is the answer to the terrible choice the president faces in deciding whether or not to send in more troops. The cost would be small fraction of military operations. It is based on the considered opinion of the world's foremost development experts, representing combined decades of working in combat zones. Please forward this post and the link to this document to the White House. Sometimes war is the answer. But this time it is not.
The Afghan New Deal (excerpted)
UNAMA SER is of the view that one of the best means of tackling the growing insurgency in the southeast is to put in place a massive public works programme, employing tens of thousands of fighting age males during the fighting season. For want of a better title, we are calling it the `Afghan New Deal' programme at this point.
The Afghan New Deal will involve all entities of sub-national governance and tribal authorities, thus strengthening linkages between them on the basis of interdependence.
The Afghan New Deal should focus on technologically simple infrastructure projects employing large numbers of fighting age men. The obvious types of projects include restoring irrigation systems, building flood mitigation infrastructure, gravel roads and forestry management.
Planning and preparation for such a programme should take place during the winter so that it commence in spring, before the fighting season starts. The process underlying this programme is in itself tremendously important.
Unemployment and under-employment are very high in the southeast region. This is a major cause of dissatisfaction with the Government and international community and consequent support for the insurgency and also a cause of criminality. Insurgents can pay young unemployed men to carry out attacks for them.
Many parts of the region have enjoyed only minimal development during the past seven years. Development has been patchy. Although there may be no proven causal link between development and security, the districts which are the most insecure (southern and eastern Ghazni, Zurmat and much of Paktika) have also enjoyed little development. However, it is possible that insecurity has dissuaded civilian organisations and even PRTs from operating there. There is a general disillusionment with the international community on the basis of what is seen as failed promises.
There is widespread poverty and the ability of communities to respond to shocks such as the food price rises or natural disasters is limited.
The southeast relies predominately on agriculture. Much of the region is mountainous and has little arable land. Overgrazing is a real problem in the mountains. In the plains areas, there is ample arable land but insufficient irrigation.
Nationally, it is estimated that only a third as much land is irrigated as was the case in 1979. The Soviets targeted the irrigation infrastructure in an attempt to depopulate areas and to prevent mujahidin fighters from using the underground irrigation channels known as karezes to move around. These systems have never been properly restored.
Consequently the lack of irrigation water and irrigation systems is the greatest constraint on agricultural yields and by extension on improving the economic status of people in the southeast.
The Afghan New Deal will be a mass employment programme concentrating on regenerating rural infrastructure, particularly irrigation systems but its raison d'être will be to build stability and reduce support to the insurgency.
The programme will focus on fighting age males (a wide age range) during the fighting season (which has been getting longer) and should last not less than three years.
Each unskilled worker should be paid around $6 per full day of work.
The programme offers a holistic and comprehensive approach, not piecemeal, and should aim for blanket coverage of the region, covering all communities and not pockets here and there.
A Provincial Management Team will be established to manage the Afghan New Deal within the province. This will be headed by the Provincial Governor and comprise the heads of relevant departments (DoRRD, DAIL, DoPW), the Chief of Police and include donor representatives and UNAMA.
The programme will depend on the Community Development Committees (or village shuras where the NSP has not been implemented, but called CDCs within this paper), and will involve all entities of sub-national governance.
All participating CDCs will continually implement discrete projects for the entirety of the fighting season. The scope of the projects will be defined from the outset, as is the case for the NSP, and may include: rehabilitation of irrigation infrastructure, gravel road construction, construction of flood retaining walls, reforestation projects and construction of micro-hydro and/or hybrid electrical general schemes.
Another important criteria for Afghan New Deal projects is that the budget is at least 60% local labour costs and that the asset created requires no operational tashkeel or takhsis from the Government.
A District Engineering Team will be established in each district, attached to the district administration, but also under the overall management of the provincial Department of Rural Rehabilitation and Development. The purpose of the District Engineering Team is to provide technical assistance and oversight of the projects implemented by the CDCs. The District Engineering Team could be a commercial firm or an NGO under contract to the DoRRD, but will comprise around ten Afghan engineers and construction specialists and ten less skilled staff.
CDCs will identify appropriate projects and outline a basic proposal which they will submit to the District Development Assembly.
The Afghan New Deal could employ 40,000 people in Paktya (perhaps as much as 7% of the population) for a little over $72 million per year.
A programme of this magnitude would require the support of the highest levels of the Afghan Government, ISAF and major donors and would therefore require extensive discussion and consultation.
Reliable and adequate funding will be necessary for at least three years. Donors would have to make firm commitments.
If there is to be any chance of putting in place this programme before the next fighting season, there is a lot of work to be done. Political outreach with CDCs and tribal shuras so that they understand the programme and undertake to support it.