News coverage of Afghanistan has skyrocketed over the past few weeks. Reporters everywhere from CNN to PBS have regularly invited policy analysts to offer their opinions on the best strategies for Afghanistan.

Throughout his campaign, President Obama repeatedly articulated his desire to proverbially “win” the war in this country. Last July, he wrote an op-ed calling for withdrawal of troops from Iraq and a more fortified military presence in this South Asian nation:

As president, I would pursue a new strategy, and begin by providing at least two additional combat brigades to support our effort in Afghanistan. We need more troops, more helicopters, better intelligence-gathering and more non-military assistance to accomplish the mission there. I would not hold our military, our resources and our foreign policy hostage to a misguided desire to maintain permanent bases in Iraq.

Many analysts argue the United States has lost much credibility in Afghanistan after air assaults left legions of Afghani citizens dead.  In an interview with Robert Frost on Al Jazeera, President Hamid Karzai reiterated this sentiment, citing haphazard night raids into Afghan homes and other military mishaps as reasons for mistrust of the American military.

Some  argue that President Obama’s current policy proposal to implement a surge of troops in Afghanistan would essentially be an extension of Bush administration policies. The New York Times reports that the proposed 30,000 troop increase would still leave troop levels at 200,000-400,000 less than in Iraq during the troop surge.

So, is military intervention an appropriate solution? Should President Obama embark on a military strategy that foreign policy experts allege may be inherently flawed? Should we implement a troop surge to mimic the Iraq model? If we’re not careful, this inherited war could easily become the “Iraq” of the Obama presidency.

As many Americans grow weary of continued investment in failed enterprises abroad, this may be exactly what we need to “win” Afghanistan. Yet, US government aid and development policies crucial to any success in the country have been woefully inefficient at best, and avariciously conducted at worst.

Andrew Bacevich, an international relations professor at Boston University, stated in the New York Times:

My understanding of the larger objective of the allied enterprise in Afghanistan is to bring into existence something that looks like a modern cohesive Afghan state. Well, it could be that that’s an unrealistic objective. It could be that sending 30,000 more troops is throwing money and lives down a rat hole.

What exactly does Bacevich mean by “rat hole”? Phillip Hilts, former New York Times health and science correspondent and author of the 2005 book, “Rx for Survival,” addresses the myth of the “rat hole.” Arguing against commentators who assert the need for “trade not aid,” Hilts claims that smart aid. such as investment in human capital and private domestic businesses, produce more results than hierarchical, wasteful corporate projects. Hilts argues that smart aid is what has propelled the development of East Asian countries.

In other words, post-conflict reconstruction in Afghanistan has failed primarily because of inherent flaws in funding allocation. Oxfam reports that much of USAID funding to Aghanistan has been funneled through US private contractors, who develop projects at sky-high, easily avoidable costs. Astoundingly, nearly half of USAID funds are allocated to private companies; much of this money is later lost in the quagmire of corporate profits.

This set-up represents both the inefficiency of US strategy to develop Afghanistan, as well as the utter lack of outreach to involve Afghanis in the process of nation-building. Should the United States wish for a sustainable, lasting peace in the region, many more localized and entrepreneurial development projects must be undertaken.

As we have all heard before, Afghanistan is at a crossroads right now. Facing a mounting humanitarian disaster, food shortages, deaths from inadequate heating, and a rapidly deteriorating security situation, the country is on the brink of collapse. Should the United States wish to alter Afghanistan’s future, current policies must be re-evaluated. The United States must recognize that any lasting peace in the country will only be achieved through collaboration with the Afghani people. A blind shipment of troops and extension of Bush-esque aid paradigms will only damage the country’s already tenuous security crisis.

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