If Afghanistan were an investment bank, it would be out of business like yesterday. The United States is so concerned about Taliban and al-Qaeda operations in Afghanistan that it is now, according to The New York Times, essentially getting back into the fight in this poor, landlocked central Asian country. According to the Times, U.S. troops will be able to carry out combat missions against the Taliban and other militant groups through 2015. The U.S. will protect not only its own troops still in country, but also support the Afghan military and the government.
The fear that the Taliban or a rebooted al-Qaeda will take over the country stems from their participation in the terrorist attacks against the United States in September 2001. I get that, but even if one or both of these groups took over the government of Afghanistan, the country is in no financial position to underwrite international terrorism without further sinking into the Stone Ages.
According to the CIA World Factbook, Afghanistan has a gross domestic product of $45.3 billion. The country depends heavily on foreign aid. The country lacks infrastructure and experiences shortages in housing, electricity, and clean water. In fiscal year 2014, the U.S. has spent twice Afghanistan’s GDP just to prosecute the war against the Taliban and al-Qaeda. According to The National Priorities Project, the U.S. has spent $753.3 billion fighting in Afghanistan with $89.1 billion spent in fiscal year 2014.
If the United States is going to spend a considerable amount of its debt-financed national treasure on a nation, it should first establish whether a trading relationship is feasible and then go about establishing one. This way additional economic opportunities can open up for U.S. citizens. Applying a conservative multiplier of two to the amount the U.S. has spent in Afghanistan, the country should have experienced $1.5 trillion in economic growth since 2001. Instead we still have a nation that is primarily agricultural and with which we conduct little trade.
Even if the Taliban, al-Qaeda, or some hybrid took over Afghanistan, there are enough regional issues to keep them in check. For example, Iran disputes Afghanistan’s decision to restrict the flow of the Helmand River tributaries during drought. Pakistan has sent troops into the country to build fences along portions of its treaty-defined border with Afghanistan in an effort to hinder terrorists and other illegal activities. Russia has issues with smuggling of poppy derivatives from Afghanistan to other central Asian countries.
Before extending our time in Afghanistan, the U.S. government should specifically describe how being there enhances our own political economy.