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An Exit Strategy for Congress

from Jobs for Afghans


It is overwhelmingly clear that the time has come for US military forces to exit Afghanistan soon. Although the US entered Kabul in 2001 welcomed by an overwhelming majority of the population, the failure to produce jobs, and the treatment of economic development as a badly neglected stepchild of the mission to bring stability, has resulted in conditions in which no further good can come of a continued US military presence.  The surge in US troops and the neglect of development has resulted in the volatile mixture of foreign occupation and economic discontent. 

The surge in US casualties and attacks on US and Afghan government targets has coincided with chronic 35% malnutrition throughout the country, 40% unemployment, one of the highest infant mortality rates, and three-fourths of the population still with no access to safe drinking water.  Taliban payments to new recruits has made joining the insurgency an irresistable temptation, as there are few other avenues for men to feed their families. 

A military exit strategy from Afghanistan must contain a component which will bring stability.  That component must be economic, as further sacrifice of lives and treasure in the military arena is pointless. The factors which cause instability cannot be resolved by military means.  What the Afghan people need is a modest program of job creation and development similar to the Marshall Plan in Europe after World War II.  Such a program would cost a small fraction of what the United States spends on military operations each year.

When the politicians fail to lead, the people must.  Despite clear statements even from U.S. military commanders that a cash-for-work jobs program, employing large numbers of unemployed, would reduce tensions and increase stability, Congress and the Obama administration have failed to act.  We therefore submit to Congress an exit strategy for Afghanistan, which shall consist of:

a. A halt in offensive military operations and a shift in mission, as troops prepare to exit, of guarding population centers and work crews, with troops confined to bases at all other times.

b. Enactment of the following "Stability Through a Cash-for-Work Initiative for Afghanistan" legislation, which will  deprive  insurgent  groups of  what  U.S. Marines refer to as the "Ten Dollar Taliban," because the Taliban high-level command pays $10 a day for insurgent footsoldiers to participate in attacks on U.S. forces.   This initiative targets the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD) of the Afghan government as the most efficient project evaluation agency through which to distribute funds.  The MRRD has created over 20,000 Community Development Councils in the villages across Afghanistan to act as partners in assessing the needs of communities.

c.  Preparations to be made for full U.S. troop withdrawal within one year, as the infusion of small capital into the hands of the poorest enables small business and vendor development, and provides a climate of stability for economic enterprise to take root.

The destiny of the Afghan and the American people can only be one thing: friendship.  It is not in arms, but in the Afghan people that we will find our greatest strength in the struggle against extremism.  Upon this relationship lies the stability of the entire world.  Failure is not an option.



                       DRAFT LEGISLATION, JOBS FOR AFGHANS



H.R.  [number to be assigned by Clerk]

One Hundred Eleventh Congress  of the  United States of America

AT THE FIRST SESSION

Begun and held at the City of Washington on [DATE]

An Act

Making supplemental appropriations for the fiscal year ending
September 30, 2010, and for other purposes.

     Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the
United States of America in Congress assembled, That the following
sums are appropriated, out of any money in the Treasury not otherwise
appropriated, for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2009, and for
other purposes, namely:

Title: Afghanistan Stability Act of 2009

I.  For an additional amount for `Afghanistan Stability Fund'
$3,700,000,000 to remain available until September 30, 2010, for:

a) Contributions to the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund of the
World Bank for publics works projects qualified by the Afghan Ministry
of Rural Rehabilitation and Development, in conjunction with the
Community Development Councils, which can be defined as "cash for
work."  Cash-for-work projects shall be defined as those which hire
exclusively Afghan labor, with small exceptions for consultative
overhead, which utilize labor-intensive methods for an overall rate of
70% of total project funding allocated to wages for line workers.

b)  Funding to be administered through USAID for cash-for-work
projects in zones deemed by ISAF to be relatively secure, to obviate
the need for high security overheads for project managers and
inspectors.  Priority shall be given to projects involving roads,
canalization water, irrigation, sanitation, and trash collection and
disposal.

c)   Cash-for-work projects shall have in place, at a minimum, a basic
audit trail for cash payments consisting of worker punch cards, which
included photos of workers, and field master lists of workers, signed
as a guarantee of receipt.

II. Projects funded by block grants authorized under the proposed
legislation shall participate in the new ARTF Incentive  program,
(established SY1387 (March 2009)), which will reward Afghan government
through additional financing for progress against annual benchmarks.
The benchmark in this case should be percentage of hiring goals
accomplished relative to targets.

IV.  No project funded by the Afghanistan Stability Act shall include
as a condition for participation that contractors be required to
participate in “post-battle clean-up.”


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