A congressional report set to be released Wednesday says the costly U.S. nation-building effort in Afghanistan has not achieved many of its goals and could suffer heavily under a rapid withdrawal, according to the Washington Post. The report, the result of a two-year inquiry led by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Democratic majority staff, comes as the White House faces a planned July reduction in troops.
According to the Post:
The report describes the use of aid money to stabilize areas the military has cleared of Taliban fighters — a key component of the administration’s counterinsurgency strategy — as a short-term fix that provides politically pleasing results. But it says that the enormous cash flows can overwhelm and distort local culture and economies, and that there is little evidence the positive results are sustainable.
The sustainability of aid money — and how it is used and distributed in sometimes corrupt networks — is called into question, along with the viability of Afghanistan’s own economy when foreign funds currently comprise a significant sum of the country’s gross domestic product.
Among the chief considerations is the strain on the U.S. economy, likely to be a key point of debate in Congress. It will also raise questions on the balance between military efforts to clear insurgents and civilian reconstruction and development work intended to stabilize the country over the long term.
Hundreds of Syrians Flee to Turkey
As fighting rages on between government soldiers and opposition forces in the northern town of Jisr al-Shughour, an increasing number of Syrian refugees are crossing the border into Turkey, with some wounded in the clashes. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country will continue to accept refugees and is making contingency plans for a larger influx, but he urged Syria’s government to take steps to end the violence. “The developments in Syria are saddening. We are watching it with great concern,” he said.
Yemen Opposition, Ruling Party Begin Talks; Saleh Remains in Saudi Arabia
According to reports cited by the Associated Press, tribal groups now control portions of Taiz, further eroding a central government already weakened by the departure of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who is in Saudi Arabia being treated for severe injuries sustained in an attack on his compound. Taiz has been the scene of fierce clashes between government forces and opposition groups.
Vice President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who is acting as president in Saleh’s absence, is facing pressure to move toward a solution to the conflict as Yemen inches closer to civil war. Talks were set to begin between ruling party General People’s Congress and an opposition umbrella group known as the Joint Meeting Party.
It is unclear when or if Saleh will return. He reportedly has burns over 40 percent of his body and had surgery in Saudi Arabia to remove shrapnel. He has faced international pressure to step down.
5,000 Evacuate as Arizona Wildfires Spread
More than 5,000 people have been evacuated as wildfires in eastern Arizona have burned an estimated 389,000 acres. Fueled by high winds and dry weather, the fire is the second-largest in Arizona’s history. The fire also raised alerts in neighboring New Mexico.
Officials said 10 structures have been destroyed by the blaze and more than 300 more are in danger.
Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl was among those forced to relocate, leaving his cabin in the town of Greer.