A USAID Economist Dissents From Holbrooke
Politico’s Laura Rozen obtained a formal dissent filed by a senior USAID development economist, C. Stuart Callison, against the development approach for Afghanistan and (mostly) Pakistan imposed by the Obama administration’s special representative, Richard Holbrooke. Holbrooke pledged in August that he would be phasing out costly U.S. contractors in favor of working through both local officials and host-country-based contractors. But Callison says that Holbrooke’s approach creates inefficiencies and delays that set back the ultimate development objectives for aiding Afghans and Pakistanis.
“On the one hand, it is expected to achieve high impact counterinsurgency and broad-based economic development objectives as quickly as possible, especially in those areas more susceptible to radical Taliban recruitment,” Callison’s memo says. “On the other hand, it is asked to do this by working through national and local government channels and host country contractors and NGOs, and not through U.S. contractors and NGOs, to avoid the overhead charges of the latter and to improve the institutional capacity and legitimacy of government agencies and local institutions.”
“These are all worthy goals,” Callison continues, ”and USAID can achieve them all. However, they are contradictory objectives without a reasonable period for the latter.”
Relatedly, two influential security wonks at the Center for a New American Security say we don’t have to worry so much about Hamid Karzai’s stolen election because we can still work with … local Afghan officials.
Update: Didn’t mean to slight USA Today’s Ken Dilanian, who apparently had the memo first.