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Posted by on Dec 3, 2009 in International, Politics, War | 5 comments

Afghanistan’s problems are “99 percent economics”

Boston Globe columnist Kevin Cullen wrote a good column based on an interview with Stephen Landrigan, a US aid worker who has spent five years working on humanitarian projects in Afghanistan. Landrigan supports the surge of troops, but recognizes that there isn’t a military solution to Afghanistan’s problems. Money quote:

“It’s 99 percent economics,” Landrigan said. “You want to beat the Taliban? It costs $1 million to keep a US soldier in Afghanistan for a year. Hold back 10 of those soldiers and spend the money to give computers to anyone who wants one, as long as they can read, and if they can’t read, teach them. For a small amount, you can buy off most of the Taliban. Some want to be martyrs. Most don’t. There’s just nothing else for them.

“Most Afghans don’t want to fight. They’ve done it for 30 years. Afghans are probably some of the best entrepreneurs, more hungry for education than anyone I’ve met. They don’t need nation building. They are a nation. Put Afghans to work. Build sewers. They have 22 hydroelectric plants, and only one is working. They need a WPA. They’d work their hearts out. They have an incredible work ethic.”

Thirty thousand more troops aren’t going to turn Afghanistan around. If they can open a window for more economic development, the maybe they will make a difference. But I haven’t heard much in the way specifics for rebuilding Afghanistan’s economy yet.

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