Obama surge in Afghanistan, they will be a subject of strong debate in the Congress. There are many unknowns about the costs and still a lot of work being done in the executive branch to figure them out.
Articles, commentary and op-eds about President Obama’s Afghan speech were seemingly ubiquitous in this morning’s news frenzy. In last night’s address, President Obama outlined US strategy for Afghanistan, announcing the deployment of an additional 30,000 troops that, after 18 months, will begin to return home. The estimated costs associated with this additional troop deployment are estimated at $1 billion per 1,000 soldiers, or roughly $30 billion.
Given the explosion of reaction, it is easy to get lost in the political debate that surrounds such an announcement. Summarized below, however, is the actual framework the President offered for the new way forward in Afghanistan. Fundamentally, the broad parameters set by the President give the general public an idea of the goals, objectives and priorities of the administration, but they are just that: broad.
The President defined the overarching goal in the region as disrupting, dismantling, and defeating al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and preventing its capacity to threaten America and its allies in the future.
To achieve this goal, President Obama offered three objectives from within Afghanistan:
- Deny al Qaeda a safe haven
- Reverse the Taliban’s momentum and deny it the ability to overthrow the government
- Strengthen the capacity of Afghanistan’s security forces and government
President Obama stated that to accomplish these objectives, the US will:
- Increase troop levels in Afghanistan by an additional 30,000 troops which will target the insurgency and secure key population centers, and train and equip Afghan security forces.
- Peruse a more effective civilian strategy by working with partner and allied nations and the Afghan people.
- Strengthen US partnership with Pakistan by providing resources to improve Pakistan’s ability to fight extremists and support Pakistan’s democracy and development.
To gain better insight on the next chapter of the US-Afghanistan relationship, it is important to first understand the budgetary trends that lie behind the last nine years of US engagement in Afghanistan.
1) Do independent panels tend to influence federal spending and other government policies, particularly on national security issues? 2) Should we expect these new commissions to catalyze reform?
In 2001, just after the 9/11 attacks, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh visited Washington, D.C. and pledged cooperation in countering terrorist networks in Yemen. Since then, the US has engaged in various security partnerships and initiatives with the government of Yemen in the hope of cracking down on terrorist cells. Yet, while the US’s principal priority in Yemen is defeating al-Qaeda networks, many argue that President Saleh’s priorities are not so neatly aligned, forcing Yemen to walk the fine line between its own interests and Western-defined ones.
From Washington’s perspective, Yemen’s domestic instability, ungoverned territory and porous borders make this, the ancestral homeland of Osama bin Laden, a potentially dangerous al-Qaeda and extremist foothold. US security assistance programs have accounted for the bulk of US assistance in recent years, including roughly $98 million for the training and equipping of the Yemeni Armed Forces, known as Section 1206. This assistance pursues US-defined goals of suppressing terrorist operations and deterring and defeating extremists operating within the borders of Yemen.
From FY 2006–FY 2009, nearly three-fourths, or 71 percent, of all US assistance to Yemen went toward security assistance programs, defined here as programs intended to strengthen non-American military and security forces. Policy-driven economic assistance, aid that funds programs developed with US strategic and foreign policy interests in mind, accounted for 21 percent, while non-security assistance programs totaled 8 percent.
While it looks like the FY 2010 request for Yemen is less than FY 2009, this is not necessarily case. Section 1206 funds are not included in the FY 2010 request because country allocations for such funding are not known at the beginning of the fiscal year. Therefore, if Section 1206 funds are excluded, US assistance to Yemen would actually increase in FY 2010 by $10.6 million or 26 percent over FY 2009.
The composition of assistance, however, would significantly change in FY 2010. Unlike previous years, 68 percent of the FY 2010 request would be allocated for non-security assistance, such as development and global health initiatives, an increase of $26 million or 180 percent over FY 2009. The FY 2010 request decreases policy-driven economic assistance to zero, which saw a significant plus-up in FY 2009, and the remaining 22 percent would go to security assistance, an increase of $4.8 million or 75 percent.
While these investments have been important, whether or not al-Qaeda and its extremist allies operate in Yemen may ultimately depend on other, more powerful, factors.
Ongoing Conflict in Yemen
The ongoing Houthi rebellion in northern Yemen dominates domestic politics. The Yemeni government (predominantly Sunni) has been engaged in an on-again-off-again conflict with the predominantly Shia Houthi rebels over historical grievances. It is speculated that Iran has a hand in funding the Houthi rebels, while Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states are in support of the Sunni Yemeni government. The result is a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran with Yemen causalities, including many civilians. Clashes of late have intensified, continuing to threaten President Saleh’s power and influence over the region.
Another security concern is the growing secessionist movement in the southern region of Yemen. Secessionist sentiments and violent rebellions are on the rise, as many southern Yemenis and their leaders do not feel an equal part of the unified state. President Saleh walks a fine line, between too strong of a government response and a too weak of one, as north-south divide only worsens with declining economic conditions.
Poverty and the Economy
Yemen is one of the poorest countries in the Arab world, with high unemployment and illiteracy, significant population growth, and roughly 45 percent of the population living below the poverty line. Yemen’s large youth population (about half of the population is under the age of 15) faces pervasive unemployment and the Yemeni people are in need of viable economic opportunities. Yemen is dependent on external aid but is perhaps in greater need of stable, economic and development partners. Long-term investment is hard to attract, however, given that experts have been saying for years that Yemen is on the verge of collapse. Declining oil reserves, water depletion, the global economic crisis and inflation further complicate matters. The result is that extremists groups use the desperation of many to recruit for their causes, often by means of religiously-inspired promises or just plain compensation.
In the Year 2013…
As President Saleh and the Yemeni government juggle these challenges, looming around the corner is the scheduled presidential election in 2013. President Saleh has led a united Yemen since 1990, and the potential change in leadership is surrounded by a significant number of unknowns. Will President Saleh be eligible for a third term? If not, who would take his place? Will the next president support or oppose US-Yemeni cooperation? How would the next administration handle many of the aforementioned challenges?
Ultimately, it is not in Yemen’s interests to have al Qaeda-inspired terrorist activity within their borders. The new generation of militants in Yemen is more inclined than their predecessors to attack the Yemeni government, in addition to foreign and Western interests. As the US and Yemen peruse their common goal of reducing the al-Qaeda presence and influence, the outcome of various domestic issues confronting President Saleh may be more deciding in the success or failure of such efforts.
Special thanks to Trice Kabundi for her efforts in this piece.
Information for this piece was taken from these outstanding works:
CRS Report: Yemen: Background and US Relations
Carnegie Endowment: Yemen: Avoiding a Downward Spiral
Section 1206 of the National Defense Authorization Act for FY2006: A Fact Sheet on Department of Defense Authority to Train andEquip Foreign Military Forces
 Security Assistance includes Global Train and Equip (Section 1206), Foreign Military Financing (FMF), Nonproliferation, Anti-Terrorism, Demining, and Related Programs (NADR), International Military Education and Training (IMET). Economic Support Funds (ESF) are defined here as policy-driven economic assistance. Non-security assistance includes Development Assistance (DA) and Global Health and Child Survival (GHCS).
It might be possible to attempt a comprehensive reordering and reform of the overall domain of U.S. democracy aid. Yet such a task is unlikely to be achieved—it is hard enough in Washington to try to reinvigorate any one federal agency’s work in a substantial area
On Wednesday, the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) held a hearing on the significance and impact of the defense budget in the long-term. The following provides a brief summary of the hearing’s four testimonies
The FY 2010 Unified Security Budget (USB) report, produced by Foreign Policy in Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies, highlights the disparity in investment between the Pentagon and other security-related spending, and argues for a shift in emphasis in US security policy toward a less militarized approach, such as preventive diplomacy and homeland security.
Anne-Marie Slaughter, the Director of Policy Planning for the State Department, spoke at American University this week about the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) and its role in shaping future US foreign engagement. Overall, the take-away from Monday’s talk was the enormous task the QDDR faces, including countless moving parts, stakeholders, and actors that must be incorporated into the review process and considered in the formulation of future policy and budget planning, focusing on the FY 2012 budget.
Although there has been significant DOD budget increases over the last decade, there remains considerable pressure on the Pentagon’s budget due to rising war costs, increased personnel costs and healthcare payments, and overall government budget deficits (now at more than $1.4 trillion).
According to the International Energy Agency, the global demand for oil in the next thirty years will grow by 66 percent. Furthermore, an insufficient amount of sources currently exist to meet such high demand.
DOD Directive 1404.10 seems to be everywhere these days. The directive, issued back in January, established the DOD Civilian Expeditionary Workforce (CEW)− a civilian workforce within the DOD that is capable of providing combat and non-combat support to the military.
The Obama administration repeatedly criticized the Bush administration’s over-reliance on emergency supplemental budget requests to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. From FY 2001 to FY 2009, more than $800 billion was funded through supplemental appropriations for the Defense (050) budget alone.
Afghan insurgents know IEDs are effective, and are amplifying the quantity, size and strength of the bombs. As the IED problem grows, the role and impact of DOD’s Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO) in developing effective counter-IED policy has come into question.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) recently released a cost estimate of the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2010 (H.R. 2647), which was signed into law by President Obama last week. According to the estimate, which focused solely on mandatory costs, the FY 2010 NDAA would increase direct spending by $855 million between the FY 2010-FY 2019 period.
Ginger Cruz, Deputy Inspector General at SIGIR, considers identifying where and when fraud and waste occur in Iraq contracts to be the “easy part” of SIGIR’s job. The hard part, in her view, is creating the right recommendations and solutions for many of the issues.
According to projections in the FY 2010 budget proposal, the federal government will spend almost as much on non-defense as defense in FY 2009, due in large part to the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA), and the gap between defense and non-defense spending will continue to be much smaller through 2014, averaging $6 billion, than it has been in the last 5-6 years when defense spending outpaced non-defense spending by as much as $90 billion in FY 2008.
A CRS report recently highlighted two important trends regarding US foreign assistance: there is more of it and more US agencies are involved in doing it.
According to the report, US foreign assistance funding has increased significantly since 9/11, from roughly $15 billion in FY 2001 to more than $45 billion in FY 2007. Moreover, there as been an increase in the number of agencies implementing foreign assistance, from 19 departments and agencies reported disbursing foreign assistance in FY 2001 compared to 24 in FY 2007. As BFAD has reported, with no overarching mechanism for coordination, the increased diaspora of foreign assistance programs weakens the strategic integrity of US foreign assistance, as varying agencies objectives may duplicate and/or undermine each others programs.
Source: CRS Report 7-5700. “Other” includes: Institute of Peace, African Development Foundation, Broadcast Board of Governors, Commerce, Justice, Labor, Interior, Transportation, EPA, Federal Trade Commission, Inter-American Foundation, National Science Foundation, Open World Leadership, OPIC, Trade & Development Agency, Postal Service.
As the graph demonstrates, an increased portion of US assistance is being disbursed by the Department of Defense (DOD), largely due to large increases in military and reconstruction assistance associated with the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. In FY 2001, DOD disbursed 29 percent of US foreign assistance which has increased to 60 percent in FY 2007. Conversely, nearly half of US foreign assistance (48 percent) was disbursed by USAID in FY 2001, while in FY 2007 USAID disbursed 23 percent. The State Department also experienced a decline, from 11 percent in FY 2001 to 7 percent in FY 2007.
CRS also compared total US foreign assistance disbursements from FY 2001-FY2007, excluding funding to Iraq and Afghanistan. When excluding funding to these two countries, USAID’s portion remains the largest with 38 percent, followed by State at 23 percent, and DOD at 21 percent. However, while DOD’s share does decrease outside of spending in Iraq and Afghanistan, DOD still remains a significant player in development assistance dispersal.
The report highlights that most analysts believe that US foreign assistance activities need to be coordinated or consolidated into a modern national foreign assistance strategy that defines objectives. The executive branch is currently conducting the Quadrennial Defense Review, the new Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, and interagency reviews of security assistance authorities and development programs. Congress is also taking on these issues, as both authorizers and appropriators for defense and foreign affairs are considering legislative and statutory provisions that would extend DOD authorities, reform those of the State Department, or reassign responsibilities for such programs. These are important steps, as an agile and effective foreign assistance program is vital to US national security.
As children of all ages prepare for the festivities this weekend, Halloween means something else for Congress this year: the expiration of the first Continuing Resolution (CR). Congress is working on its second FY 2010 CR (added onto the Interior & Environment appropriations bill) which would extend FY 2009 spending levels for those bills that have not yet been enacted until December 18, 2009.
The following is a comparison of key provisions between the House and Senate bills with regard to the growing number of DOD authorities, programs, and funding for foreign and security assistance, as proposed by the administration in its FY 2010 request.