The Truth-O-Meter Says:
Clinton

"By the time I left" the State Department, "economic growth was up and opium production was down" in Afghanistan, while "infant mortality declined" and school enrollment rose by more than sevenfold.

Hillary Clinton on Tuesday, June 10th, 2014 in her book, "Hard Choices"

In new book, Hillary Clinton touts quality-of-life advances in Afghanistan

In her book, Hard Choices, Hillary Clinton writes about her experiences as secretary of state in the Obama administration. One of the most high-profile countries in her portfolio was Afghanistan, a country that the United States had invaded in 2001 in order to oust the Taliban.

In the book, Clinton took some pride in Afghanistan’s accomplishments on her watch.

"By the time I left State, the Afghans had made progress," Clinton wrote. "Economic growth was up and opium production was down. Infant mortality declined by 22 percent. Under the Taliban only 900,000 boys and no girls had been enrolled in schools. By 2010, 7.1 million students were enrolled, and nearly 40 percent of them were girls."

We decided to check the accuracy of her statistics. We used several sources, including the Brookings Institution’s periodic Afghanistan Index, which collects a wide range of data on the country, as well as information from the World Bank and the World Health Organization. (We won't be addressing whether she or the administration deserves credit for these improvements. The United States, as the major western military and diplomatic force in the country, clearly had an impact, but figuring out exactly how much is more art than science.)

Is economic growth up?

Given the multitude of challenges it faced, ranging from war to poverty, Afghanistan certainly could have done worse in economic growth than it did between 2009 and 2013. Here’s Afghanistan’s annual percentage increase in gross domestic product since 2000, according to the World Bank.

 

2000

‘01

‘02

‘03

‘04

‘05

‘06

‘07

‘08

‘09

‘10

‘11

‘12

7.3

7.0

2.9

5.7

1.1

11.2

5.6

3.7

3.6

21.0

8.4

6.1

14.4

 

According to this data, the country’s economic growth pattern has ranged widely, but it’s certainly been growing rather than shrinking.

Still, lest anyone assume that the 14-percent-plus growth in 2012 -- Clinton’s last year as secretary of state -- is the new normal, the International Monetary Fund projected that Afghanistan would grow by a far slower 3.1 percent in 2013 (lower than any year since 2004) and 4.8 percent in 2014.

Is opium production down?

The Brookings study found that metric tons of opium production has also undergone a zigzagging course in recent years. Whether it declined depends on what time frame you’re looking at.

 

2002

‘03

‘04

‘05

‘06

‘07

‘08

‘09

‘10

‘11

‘12

3,400

3,600

4,200

4,100

6,100

8,200

7,700

6,900

3,600

5,800

3,700

 

The data show that opium production surged in 2006, peaked in 2007, and began falling in 2008 -- before Clinton became secretary of state. During her tenure, it went down, then up, then down again. Its 2012 level was roughly on par with the amount in 2002 and 2003.

During Clinton’s four years, opium production averaged 5,000 metric tons per year. That’s slightly less than the average of the four years preceding her time as secretary of state.

Has infant mortality declined?

Mortality rates for children under 5 has indeed declined, at least according to the World Health Organization. Here’s the WHO’s data on infant mortality rate -- deaths from birth to age 1 per 1000 live births:

 

1990

1995

2000

2005

2010

2012

120

102

94

83

74

71

 

The decline between 2005 and 2012 -- the closest we could get to a "before and after" for Clinton -- is a 14 percent decrease, a bit smaller than the 22 percent.

Is school enrollment up sevenfold?

This is the statistic for which Clinton seems most on-target -- and the one about which Afghan officials can feel most proud, assuming the data are accurate. Here are the enrollment figures in millions, according to the Brookings study:

 

2001

‘02

‘03

‘04

‘05

‘06

‘07

‘08

‘09

‘10

‘11

‘12

‘13

<1.0

2.0

3.0

3.7

4.7

5.2

5.6

5.9

6.5

7.1

8.3

9.0

10.0

 

So, for total enrollment, Clinton is exactly right. As for girls, the Brookings report says that "virtually none" of the students enrolled in 2001 were girls, a number that increased to roughly 40 percent by 2010. So she’s right about girls’ enrollment as well.

Clinton is probably three-quarters accurate, said Michael O'Hanlon, a Brookings scholar who helped create the Afghanistan Index. "The opium issue hasn’t been encouraging, but the other trend lines are all essentially what she writes," he said.

Our rating

Clinton said that over the course of her tenure as secretary of state, economic growth and school enrollment in Afghanistan was up, while opium production and infant mortality were down.

Her claims about school enrollment, infant mortality, and economic growth are basically accurate, but the data on opium production suggests that her claim is somewhat exaggerated. We rate the claim Mostly True.

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About this statement:

Published: Tuesday, June 10th, 2014 at 5:24 p.m.

Subjects: Drugs, Economy, Education, Foreign Policy, Health Care, Public Health, Women

Sources:

Hillary Clinton, Hard Choices, published June 10, 2014

Brookings Institution, "Afghanistan Index," Jan. 31, 2013

Brookings Institution, "Afghanistan Index, May 14, 2014

International Monetary Fund, "Table A4. Emerging Market and Developing Economies: Real GDP," accessed June 10, 2014

World Bank, GDP growth (annual percentage), accessed June 10, 2014

World Health Organization, "Child mortality levels: Probability of dying per 1 000 live births, data by country," accessed June 10, 2014

Email interview with Michael O’Hanlon, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and co-author of the Afghanistan Index, June 10, 2014

Written by: Louis Jacobson
Researched by: Louis Jacobson
Edited by: Aaron Sharockman

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