With Afghanistan’s presidential election set to take place on October 9, the country remains in danger and disarray, jeopardizing the legitimacy of the poll. Drug production is booming, Taliban attacks are increasing, warlords rule across the countryside, and al Qaeda remains a threat.
These and other challenges are explored in two newly released papers commissioned by the Center for American Progress, Road to Ruin: Afghanistan’s Booming Opium Industry, by Barnett R. Rubin, Director of Studies and Senior Fellow at the Center on International Cooperation at New York University, and Security in Afghanistan: The Continuing Challenge, by Larry P. Goodson, Author of Afghanistan’s Endless War.
In Road to Ruin: Afghanistan’s Booming Opium Industry, Rubin takes issue with President Bush’s declaration that "the people of Afghanistan are now free," explaining that Afghanistan’s opium industry "has expanded to the point that it could undermine the entire U.S. and international effort." Rubin notes that opium income for 2002 and 2003 "was more than 70 percent greater than the international aid distributed for projects that had started in Afghanistan" during the same period. He warns that while the opium industry generated $2.3 billion last year in illicit funds, Afghanistan has received less aid per capita than almost every other recent peace building operation. He makes recommendations for the United States and the international community for a more effective counter-narcotics strategy.
In Security in Afghanistan: The Continuing Challenge, Goodson warns that "Although U.S., ISAF, and Afghan forces will provide security on Election Day, they do not have sufficient forces to do so." He notes that security in the country remains dire, threatening not only the election, but also Afghanistan’s future. Pointing out that the United States and other NATO member states have too few troops in Afghanistan, and that international efforts to ramp up Afghanistan’s domestic security capacity have progressed too slowly, Goodson makes recommendations for strengthening security in the country.
• Road to Ruin: Afghanistan’s Booming Opium Industry
• Security in Afghanistan: The Continuing Challenge
See also, "The world needs to step it up in Afghanistan," an op-ed by Madeleine Albright and Robin Cook, leaders of "Building Global Alliances for the 21st Century," a Center initiative that brings together international leaders seeking cooperative solutions to global problems.