FROM: Ralph Lopez, Afghan Marshall Plan Stabilization and Exit Strategy Project, (full in-office presentation upon request.) 

Afghan Marshall Plan Stabilization and Exit Strategy

Stabilizing Afghanistan Through Civilian Assistance to Poorest Sector




·       A cash-for-work jobs program aimed at those most at-risk for joining the Taliban is President Obama's only course for creating an option for troop withdrawal, without possible chaos and instability.   


·       Stabilization of Afghanistan and a decrease in danger to troops now present can be accomplished by a halt in offensive operations, and attacking the economic underpinnings of the insurgency.  This can be accomplished for 5% - 10 % of the present cost of military operations per year, for a duration of 2 years, or about $3.7 billion per year.  This legislation must be passed within 2 months.  Preparations for food and blanket drops should begin immediately, especially for the north, should the winter turn harsh and mass starvation threaten again.  Draft legislation at http://jobsforafghans.org/Legislation.html


·       Our plan was accepted by the UN Assistance Mission for Afghanistan (UNAMA) in meetings in Kabul.  UNAMA has authored the document "The Afghan New Deal" which largely mirrors our policy prescriptions.  The document states: "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.""   We contend that this is true year-round.  [ Copy of internal UN document posted at http://jobsforafghans.org/newdeal.pdf ]


·       Our fact-finding mission this summer consisted of meetings with ISAF command staff (up to rank of major general,) Afghan and non-Afghan non-governmental organizations (NGOs,) Afghan government ministries, Canadian Embassy staff, the ambassador of Norway, NGO field workers, cash-for-work worksite supervisors at a CARE International project funded by USAID, journalists both foreign and Afghan, and former employees of USAID.  Contact information can be provided.  Most importantly, we had interviews with ordinary, unemployed Afghans who gather in the squares of Kabul by the thousands waiting to be hired for day labor, in order to sense the mood of the street.  [ see documentary, short version at http://current.com/items/91424519_afghan-exit-strategy-winning-with-jobs-not-guns-filmed-in-kabul.htm   ]


Why it Will Work


·       The Taliban is politically unpopular and there is near-universal dislike of its extremist ideology, However, Taliban recruitment is successful as a result of 40% unemployment and the Taliban's willingness and ability to pay $8 to $10 a day to insurgent fighters, now called the "Ten Dollar Taliban" by some soldiers.    General Karl Eikenberry, former commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, told the House Armed Services Committee in 2007 "Much of the enemy force is drawn from the ranks of unemployed men looking for wages to support their families."  Eight full years after the occupation began, there is hunger and starvation across the country, including in Kabul.  According to UN estimates, 35% of Afghans are malnourished (2009 World Bank Interim Strategy Note.)  39% of children are underweight.  1 out of 5 infants dies before the age of five. [Ten Dollar Taliban: "Afghans move toward reconciliation with Taliban," USA Today 8/24/2009 ]


·       Estimates of the proportion of fighters who do not subscribe to the Taliban's ideology but fight only for the wage range from 70% to 90%. Projects to employ these men at $7 per day can be implemented on a large scale which would focus on water infrastructure, which remains damaged from war and is critical to agriculture.  These are labor-intensive projects such as canal –clearing, requiring little in heavy equipment and only local supervision.   Another project is the improvement of the vast network of dirt roads with gravel.  Another would be the repair and replacement of the hundreds of miles of open sewers in major cities. 


·       The effect on security of announcing and implementing these programs will be visible immediately.  As a kinship culture, word travels quickly across Afghanistan, and decisions on whether or not to join the Taliban will be postponed.


·       This program is not intended as a sustainable model of development, but as a stop-gap measure to prevent further disintegration into chaos.  George C. Marshall, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and author of the Marshall Plan, said of post-World War II Europe: “The patient sinks while the doctors deliberate.”


·       Almost all of the supervisory personnel for these projects can be Afghan, thus obviating the need for international civilian personnel to be put at risk in the field.


·       Successful cash-for-work hiring projects, supervised by Afghans, have already been demonstrated in various parts of the country. Such projects have in common a labor-intensive capital-to-labor input ratio.  The challenge is to go "big enough and fast enough" with such programs to constitute the equivalent of positive, economic "shock and awe."


·       Concurrently, programs should be put into place in the south, which will allow farmers to grow something other than poppies.  Most farmers would rather be growing something else, as U.S. policy can change in a moment toward the destruction of poppy fields.


·       The proposed legislation represents a new U.S. strategy direction in Afghanistan, which places emphasis on the most immediate driver of the insurgency: the failed reconstruction.  Pockets of new wealth have accumulated, but for the vast majority of Afghans living conditions are miserable and existence is hand-to-mouth, including literal starvation.  The legislation will implement cash-for-work projects for the poorest, most at-risk Afghans, for a duration of two years.  This will:


·       - halt and reverse the Taliban's recruiting success based on economic conditions


·       - give the informal economy "breathing room" to develop, assisted by the small capital formation which will result from the injection of wages into the economy


The projects will meet strict criteria for efficiency and accountability, described in the legislation.  It proposes that the newly established Special Inspector General for the Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) play a role in the oversight and monitoring of these projects.  .The administrative conduits for these projects shall be the highly regarded National Solidarity Program (NSP) of the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development, which has established 22,000 Community Development Councils.  These are committees at the village level created to evaluate projects for true benefit to the community.  Members of these councils include many women.  The other conduit for project funds, subject to new guidelines, would be USAID.


According to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, before any higher development takes place, first must come food and basic shelter from the elements in the winter.  The litany of needs in Afghanistan, improvement of local governance, judicial systems, professionalization of police and security forces, are all important, but first people must be able to eat, or revolution and insurgency will result.  This basic need is not being met in Afghanstan.  The Afghan Marshall Plan Project believes the Afghan people themselves can be our most important ally in the struggle against Islamist extremism, which does not represent the majority of Afghans. 


International law places the onus on an occupying power to insure the basic food needs of a population.  Article 55 of the Geneva Convention states: "To the fullest extent of the means available to it, the Occupying Power has the duty of ensuring the food and medical supplies of the population; it should, in particular, bring in the necessary foodstuffs, medical stores and other articles if the resources of the occupied territory are inadequate."


DRAFT LEGISLATION AT: www.jobsforafghans.org/Legislation.html     

PAPER AT:  http://jobsforafghans.org/WhitePaper.pdf

   EMAIL CONTACT: ralphlopez2008@gmail.com