Thursday, October 30th, 2014

The Obameter

Increase non-military aid to Afghanistan by $1 billion


Barack Obama would increase U.S. non-military aid to Afghanistan by an additional $1 billion to $3 billion. "This aid would fund reconstruction, police and army training, embassy operations, and local projects including efforts to impact the lives of ordinary Afghans and to give farmers alternatives to growing opium poppies. The aid would also be tied to better performance by the Afghan national government, including anti-corruption initiatives and efforts to extend the rule of law across the country."


Updates

Administration meets goal of boosting non-military funding in Afghanistan

During the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama promised to increase U.S. non-military aid to Afghanistan by an additional $1 billion, funding "reconstruction, police and army training, embassy operations, and local projects including efforts to impact the lives of ordinary Afghans and to give farmers alternatives to growing opium poppies. The aid would also be tied to better performance by the Afghan national government, including anti-corruption initiatives and efforts to extend the rule of law across the country."

Since our last look at this promise in 2009, the Obama administration has submitted several budgets. A Congressional Research Service report titled, "Afghanistan: Post-Taliban Governance, Security, and U.S. Policy” summarizes the funding for Afghanistan in a chart (Table 13). The number we need to evaluate Obama's promise can be calculated by subtracting all Department of Defense funding from the "total U.S. assistance” line.

Here are the year-by-year totals for non-defense spending:

Fiscal 2009: $2.83 billion
Fiscal 2010: $4.23 billion
Fiscal 2011: $2.75 billion
Fiscal 2012: $2.33 billion
Fiscal 2013: $2.51 billion

So, between fiscal 2009 (the last budget officially submitted by George W. Bush's administration) and and fiscal 2010 (which was drawn up with heavy input from Bush but submitted by Obama) total non-military aid rose past $3 billion, and the increase exceeded the promised $1 billion.

By itself, this might be enough to qualify as a Promise Kept, but the fact that that Bush gets partial credit for this budget, combined with the fact that spending spiked before declining again, led us to look at the subsequent fiscal years before rendering a final judgment.

Fiscal 2011 numbers from the same CRS chart show Obama a bit short of $3 billion in non-military aid to Afghanistan. However, the amount climbs past the $3 billion if you add $600 million in Department of State operations, which are listed here.  

Laura Peterson, a senior policy analyst for national security with Taxpayers for Common Sense, called it "a real stretch” to count embassy spending, but Obama did specifically say he'd be including "embassy operations” in the calculation, so we are including it in our count.

For fiscal 2012, you can take the $2.33 billion figure and add at least $834 million for embassy operations and once again the total rises above $3 billion. (We will not address fiscal 2013 because so far the figure is only an administration request, not an approved number.)

"If you're just trying to figure out whether the numbers jibe with the promise, then it looks like the promise is kept since they certainly surpass the minimum $1 billion,” Peterson said.

As for the question of whether this aid was "tied to better performance by the Afghan national government, including anti-corruption initiatives and efforts to extend the rule of law across the country,” we checked with Michael O'Hanlon, an expert on military and civilian efforts in Afghanistan who works for the Brookings Institution.

O'Hanlon, responding to our e-mail from Afghanistan, said that the U.S. has "increased civilian aid a lot and tried to tie (it) to improved governance, but on balance corruption here is still a huge problem.” He said he'd "give them two-thirds credit, perhaps.”

Since Obama didn't promise to end corruption in Afghanistan but simply to make it a factor in U.S. aid, we won't penalize him for his record on that part of the promise. But he in 2010 he did meet the goals he set for increasing aid. We rate this a Promise Kept.

Sources:

Congressional Research Service, "Afghanistan: Post-Taliban Governance, Security, and U.S. Policy,” May 3, 2012

Congressional Research Service, "Afghanistan: U.S. Foreign Assistance," Aug. 12, 2010

Department of State, "Congressional Budget Justification, Volume 1, Fiscal Year 2013," accessed May 15, 2012

Senate Appropriations Committee, "Summary: FY 2011 Department of State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Appropriations,” July 29, 2010

Email interview with Michael O"Hanlon, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, May 11, 2012

Email interview with Laura Peterson, senior policy analyst for national security with Taxpayers for Common Sense, May 14, 2012

Bill pending in Senate

During the campaign, Barack Obama promised to increase U.S. nonmilitary aid to Afghanistan to $3 billion. The additional funds would be used for much-needed reconstruction of national infrastructure, training of local security forces, and combating corruption and drug trafficking.

President Obama's budget for 2010 moves him closer to fulfilling his promise. According to the Project on Middle East Democracy, "President Obama has made renewed focus on Afghanistan a key part of his administration's foreign policy, and his budget request clearly reflects that priority." If Congress was to grant him the full $2.777 billion that he requested, it would make Afghanistan the largest recipient of U.S. foreign assistance in 2010.

On July 9, the House of Representatives passed the 2010 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill. The legislation provides $2.695 billion in foreign aid for Afghanistan--$82 million below the President's request, but $7 million above 2009 enacted level. The Senate Appropriations Committee passed the bill the same day, providing $2.7 billion in aid. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said that the "bill goes a long way to enhance the capacity of the Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development to carry out diplomacy and development programs in areas of critical importance to the United States."

To be sure, the Senate still has to vote on the bill, the two congressional chambers must reconcile the different amounts, both of which are short of the $3 billion mark, and President Obama has to sign the bill into the law. Clearly, however, it's a start. We rate this promise In the Works.

Sources:

U.S. House Committee on Appropriations, 2010 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill Summary , Accessed November 19, 2009.

U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations, Summary: FY 2010 Department of State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Appropriations , Accessed November 19, 2009.

Project on Middle East Democracy, The Federal Budget and Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2010: Democracy, Governance, and Human Rights in the Middle East , July 2009.