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.