October PF (Afghanistan): Essay & Release

September 05 2010 by Stefan Bauschard

No tags.

The essay is below the fold. The release is here.

Resolved: NATO presence improves the lives of Afghan citizens.

The October Public Forum topic focuses on the value of the NATO presence in the lives of Afghan citizens. Before we examine the pro and con arguments we need to unpack some key terms and concepts in the resolution – NATO presence, improve the lives, and Afghan citizens.

First, what is NATO presence?

NATO is the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.  NATO is constituted officially by 28 individual member countries (

In Afghanistan in particular, the NATO presence is constituted by different 42 difference countries because NATO commands all of the troops:


The majority of foreign troops in Afghanistan are under the command of the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf).

Established by the UN Security Council in December 2001, its stated role is to promote security and development.

It is also involved in training the Afghan National Army (ANA) and the Afghan National Police (ANP).

As of October 2009, Isaf had 67,700 personnel from 42 different countries including the US, European countries, Australia, Jordan and New Zealand.

The US provides the almost half of the troops:

The largest contributing nations are the US and Britain. They provide around 31,855 and 9,000 troops respectively (same source).

Even the new troops that are part of the “surge” are under NATO command, substantially expanding the percentage of the US commitment to well over half the number of troops:

Isaf's mission was initially limited to Kabul, but since October 2006 its remit has expanded to all the provinces of Afghanistan.

Barack Obama, who became US president in January, pledged to send an additional 21,000 troops to Afghanistan, many of them redeployed from operations in Iraq, amid concerns about the resurgence of the Taliban.

The US and the UK have forces in Afghanistan in addition to the troops operating under Isaf command (same source).

So, when asking if NATO presence improves the lives of Afghan citizens, the topic is essentially asking if US presence improves the lives of Afghan citizens, very similar to last January’s Public Forum resolution – Resolved: President Obama's plan for increasing troops in Afghanistan is in the United States' best interest.  – because the increase in troops is a big part of NATO’s presence.

In fact, NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) is directly involved in the surge:

RTT News, 9-1, 10,


 General David H. Petraeus, commanding US-NATO forces in Afghanistan, says the nine-year-old counter-insurgency operations in Afghanistan were "under-resourced," said reports Tuesday.

Fielding questions on NATO's in-house TV channel, he also predicted that the future campaign would be "slow and hard-fought."

He said the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) did not have "the organization necessary" in place until last year when a new war policy was tried out.

But he said that the planned surge involving ISAF and Afghan forces would be completed as per schedule.


Last January’s PF essay is available here ( PF subscribers can also download that evidence release.  Last January’s lecture on the surge (

Second, what does it mean to “improve the lives” of Afghan citizens?   Basic quality of life indicators include ( ):


Table 3



  • educational attainment •     educational expenditures •  enrollment rates •    literacy rates • income by education •      access to education •        distribution of education


  • civilian labor force
  • employment rate
  • unemployment rate
  • underemployment rate
  • labor force participation rate
  • employment-to-population ratio
  • duration of unemployment
  • reason for unemployment
  • non-market work
  • • volunteering
  • alternative work arrangements
  • multiple job holders
  • • self-employment

⇒      Energy        •        energy intensity •    energy consumption

  • carbon intensity


  • air quality
  • water quality
  • soil quality
  • • biodiversity
  • household waste
  • agricultural runoff
  • ozone nonattainment
  • air quality standards
  • air pollutant emissions
  • sources of emissions
  • electric utility generation
  • wind & water erosion
  • toxic chemical releases
  • swimmability & fishability of waters

⇒      Health         •        infant mortality by mother’s education, race and ethnicity •   life expectancy by gender, race and nationality

⇒      Human Rights

  • security of person
  • domestic violence
  • U.S. Bill of Rights & Amendments
  • Universal Declaration of Human Rights
  • • immigration
  • • asylum
  • prison labor
  • deported aliens
  • rights of women, children, Native Americans
  • hate crimes
  • death penalty
  • • voting
  • human rights treaties
  • political action committees


  • median family income •     male-female wage gap • wealth •   low-wage jobs
  • employment (hours) •        labor force participation rate •       unemployment rate •          sources of income • insurance • pension • taxes • profits •     non-labor income • poverty


  • public & private infrastructure
  • transportation sector
  • telecommunications sector
  • utilities sector
  • social infrastructure (health, safety, education)
  • capital stock
  • human capital infrastructure
  • environmental infrastructure

National Security

  • President’s national security strategy •    Congressional budget process •    international treaties •  major armed conflicts
  • world arms transfers •        worldwide military expenditures • completed peacekeeping missions •   international terrorist incidents & casualties

⇒      Public Safety

  • death rates from injuries & infectious diseases
  • leading causes of deaths


  • self/society improving experience •         religious activity •   patronized arts •     amateur arts
  • do-it-yourself hobbies •      physical activity •   spectator sports attendance •       vicarious (media) experience •        virtual recreation • socializing •     recreational drugs • gambling •      travel & tourism


  • homeownership rates
  • • overcrowding
  • • affordability
  • units lacking complete plumbing
  • rental cost burden
  • population in extreme poverty neighborhoods


Other quality of life scales contain similar elements (

Violence obviously threatens all of these quality of life indicators, so the general debate about whether or not US military presence in Afghanistan increases or decreases violence is applicable to answering this question.  Again, basically the same set of arguments that were debated last January.

Third, who are Afghan citizens?  Does this include the Taliban (the previous government of Afghanistan that the US just overthrew)?  Members of terrorist organizations?  Citizenship of Afghanistan may be difficult to define, but it is worth noting that the resolution focuses the debate on that question – not on the impacts, for example, of the violence spilling over into Pakistan.

Pro Arguments

The center of the pro debate are arguments about the impact that the surge has on reducing violence in Afghanistan.  This has already been articulated in the previous essay on the value of the surge.

In addition to these, there are some other pro arguments than the affirmative can make.

One, Afghanis perceive that their quality of life is increasing

Mark Humphry’s,  January 2010,


  • Poll, Dec 2006:
    • 75 percent of Afghans believe their quality of life has improved since the fall of the Taliban.
    • 70 per cent say they are "grateful" rather than "unhappy" with the presence of Nato troops in the country.
    • Just 5 per cent expressed support for Taliban fighters.
    • Just 11 per cent expressed support for jihadi fighters from other countries.
  • Poll, Feb 2009
    • Only 4 percent of Afghans want the Taliban back!
    • 69 percent approve of the US invasion.
    • 63 percent support the continued presence of U.S. military forces in Afghanistan.
    • 64 percent say attacks on U.S. military forces cannot be justified.
    • 79 percent have the worst ("very unfavourable") view of the Taliban.
    • 82 percent have the worst ("very unfavourable") view of Bin Laden.
    • 65 percent have the worst ("very unfavourable") view of Pakistan.
    • 67 percent say Pakistan is helping the Taliban.
    • I love the way the BBC spins the poll as painting "a bleak picture"!
  • Poll, Jan 2010
    • 68 percent of Afghans support the presence of infidel US troops in the country. That's probably more than the percentage of any western country that backs it.
    • Not even all of the other 32 percent are sincere, since only 22 percent of Afghans want American troops to leave now or in the next 18 months.
    • 70 percent of Afghans believe Afghanistan is going in the right direction.
    • 90 per cent want their country run by the current government, compared with 6 percent who want the Taliban back. The Taliban have failed to win "hearts and minds", compared with the stunning success of the foreign infidel Americans at doing that.
    • 69 percent believed the Taliban posed the biggest danger to the country.
    • 66 percent blamed the Taliban, al-Qaeda and foreign militants for violence in Afghanistan.
    • 83 percent said it was either very good or mostly good that US forces entered Afghanistan in 2001 to drive out the Taliban. Afghans are more positive about their liberation than the western left is.
  • Plenty of locals on the Pakistan-Afghan border hate the Taliban, Al Qaeda and the foreign jihadis fighting to enslave them. "I've met ordinary people who say that they'd even welcome Israel or India if they helped us get rid of these Arabs and their friends."
Two, at least there has been improvement on some quality of life indicators.  The resolution doesn’t ask if quality of life has improved on the net, just whether or not it has improved, and it has in some areas

Richard Weitz is Senior Fellow and Director of the Center for Political-Military Analysis at Hudson Institute, October 28, 2009,

The news is not all bad, however. With the help of outside donors, the Afghan government has made great strides in providing increased access to basic health care, with 82 percent of the population now living in districts that have a basic package of health care programs, up considerably from 9 percent in 2003. This metric is of limited value for truly sick individuals, who probably still cannot access health care in many cases. But it has translated into significant improvements in the rate of vaccinations as well as infant and child mortality rates. Though literacy rates continue to linger at less than 30 percent, more than 6 million children currently attend over 9,000 schools. Gender equity is improving as 2 million of the students are girls and 40,000 of the 142,000 teachers are women. This represents a marked improvement over the Taliban years. Finally, telephone usage has increased dramatically to an estimated 7 million Afghans, up from just 1 million in 2002.


Con Arguments


The center of the pro debate are arguments are also about the impact that the surge has on reducing violence in Afghanistan.  This has already been articulated in the previous essay on the value of the surge.

In addition to these, there are some other con arguments that the negative can make.

One, it is not NATO’s military presence but rather the US Agency for International Development that is acting to improve the quality of life in Afghanistan (

Second, the quality of life in Afghanistan is the second lowest in the world – 9 years of NATO presence and the second lowest quality of life in the world!

Oregon Live, July 10, 2010,


According to the United Nations, more than $36 billion of international humanitarian aid has been given to Afghanistan between 2001 and 2009. Yet the standard of living, as measured by the U.N.'s Human Development Index, continues to be one of the lowest in the world. Afghanistan now ranks 181 out of 182 countries on this index, which measures quality of life, literacy, educational attainment and income growth. This may be because more than half of this foreign aid has gone to strengthen the Afghan police and military rather than to the public services for which it was intended.


The recent surge has not improved the quality of life

Press TV 8/27 (8/27/10, " 'Afghan president dependant upon US' ",

Despite an unprecedented expansion of war in Afghanistan, there has not been a crackdown on Taliban militants; "instead there is the killing of civilians and children and the devastation that has been wreaked all over Afghanistan," Becker added.

There has been no improvement in the quality of life in Afghanistan, turning more and more of the population against the US-NATO occupation, the activist went on to say.


Quality of life for Afghan women decreasing


            Lew Rockwell (


Sadly, it is very likely that they will continue to face abuse, disfiguring attacks and even death for their acts of simple courage – just as they do today under US occupation. Indeed, there is good reason to believe that these kinds of attacks and the overall quality of life for Afghan women have only grown worse with the US presence.

The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission reported in March of 2008 that violence against women had nearly doubled from the previous year, and a 2009 Human Rights Watch report concludes that "(w)hereas the trend had clearly been positive for women’s rights from 2001–2005, the trend is now negative in many areas." Other reports (including one from Amnesty International in May of 2005) call the first part of that statement into question:

Says Ann Jones, journalist and author of Kabul in Winter, "For most Afghan women, life has stayed the same. And for a great number, life has gotten much worse." Sonali Kolhatkar, co-director of the Afghan Women’s Mission, says "the attacks against women both external and within the family have gone up. Domestic violence has increased. (The current) judiciary is imprisoning more women than ever before in Afghanistan. And they are imprisoning them for running away from their homes, for refusing to marry the man that their family picked for them, for even being a victim of rape." Anand Gopal, Afghanistan correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, says "The situation for women in the Pashtun area is actually worse than it was during the Taliban time. ...(U)nder the Taliban, women were kept in burqas and in their homes, away from education. Today, the same situation persists. They’re kept in burqas, in homes, away from education, but on top of that they are also living in a war zone." "Five years after the fall of the Taliban, and the liberation of women hailed by Laura Bush and Cherie Blair, thanks to the US and British invasion," wrote The Independent’s Kim Sengupta in November of 2006, "such has been the alarming rise in suicide that a conference was held on the problem in the Afghan capital just a few days ago."

The US military has made life worse for women in Afghanistan, not better. Is it possible that a US exit will result in their lives becoming even worse than they are now, as Bret Stephens and Time magazine fear? Of course it is possible. But what is certain is that the occupation has had a harmful effect on the lives of the vast majority of Afghan civilians – not a positive one as the promoters of war as a vehicle for social change assert. Also indisputable is that the Taliban has grown in strength since the occupation began, and it only continues to do so. This should come as no surprise to anyone who has looked closely at the motives for terrorism. Even US intelligence agencies have acknowledged that the US occupation of Iraq has strengthened Islamic fundamentalism and ."..made the overall terrorism problem worse.


Another card:


men & Afghanistan (more on MADRE’s site) (

  • Many Afghan women say the military occupation poses a greater threat to women in Afghanistan, where 87 percent are illiterate, 1,600 out of every 100,000 mothers die while giving birth or of related complications, and 1 and 3 women experience psychological, emotional or physical abuse.
  • Despite promises otherwise, U.S. military efforts have not improved quality of life for women. In fact, that the U.S. has improved women's live is largely a myth, a form of propaganda to boost American support for the war. Except for some women in Kabul, life for women has remained the same or deteriorated.


There is really no standard by which the quality of life has improved:

Women Say No to War --


Effects of occupation (general):

  • Decades of war – going back to the United States’ Cold War-era covert involvement in Afghans’ war against the Soviets - have contributed to the fragmentation of Afghanistan and its unimaginable poverty as the world’s fourth poorest country on the UN Human Development Index.
  • The failure to build the country back up after driving the Taliban out has created a ‘stateless’ situation, a governmental vacuum that resurgent Taliban are now filling all over the country.
  • In fact, the Taliban has not been weakened but is stronger than ever and more sophisticated, largely thanks to widespread anger against U.S. presence helping to boost recruitment and increase financial support.
  • Troops cannot defeat an ideology: a RAND Corporation study last year found that only seven percent of terrorist organizations gave up their violent activities as a result of military defeat.
  • The mentality of “occupation” justifies the current US. military take-over of most development and ‘state-building’ as well as humanitarian aid, endangering neutral aid organizations and botching the job. Military occupation cannot build a state. Development must come from the bottom up. Desperately-needed aid should not be bartered with villagers for “intelligence” and “cooperation.”
  • The war will lead to more civilian deaths - a United Nations report released earlier this year found the Afghan civilian death toll nearly doubled in 2008 under U.S. and NATO presence, with the U.S. responsible for almost half the deaths.


And quality of life ratings continue to fall:


Richard Weitz is Senior Fellow and Director of the Center for Political-Military Analysis at Hudson Institute, October 28, 2009,


Notwithstanding these caveats, what do the indexes tell us about the course of the insurgencies? The socioeconomic indicators for Afghanistan and Pakistan remain low. In particular, Afghanistan still falls near the bottom end of most economic measures. Although some progress has occurred in aggregate growth indicators as well as the availability of health care, the overwhelming majority of Afghans live in poverty with minimum access to essential public services.

Levels of violence have also increased in both countries. The security situation in Afghanistan now appears worse than at any time since 2001. Casualties among Afghan civilians, the Afghan government, and coalition forces are at record levels. Opium production may have peaked, but at extraordinarily high levels. In Pakistan, the data shows that the number of suicide attacks has surged in recent years. A worrisome development is that about 40 percent of these attacks have occurred outside the Pakistani Taliban strongholds of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), including in the Pakistani heartland of the Punjab.

The public opinion results for Afghanistan and Pakistan are also not good. Support among the Afghan people for their government and its foreign military allies are plummeting across a range of important indicators. Ratings of the United States and the U.S. military have undergone a marked deterioration

Even worse than during the Taliban years!

Jason Campbell; Michael E. O'Hanlon; and Jeremy ,Shapiro, Brookings, Policy Review, Fall 2009,

After 30 years of nearly uninterrupted war, Afghanistan now ranks at or near the bottom of nearly every international economic or quality-of-life metric recorded. While reliable data during the Taliban years are difficult to come by, reporting conducted beginning in 2003 provides adequate evidence of the daunting baseline inherited by the new Afghan government. In 2003, annual per capita gdp was less than $200 (based on current prices). Basic services, such as health care and education, were considered luxury items. The infant mortality rate ranked last in the world at 165 per 1,000 live births. Life expectancy was a mere 42 years. During the Taliban years, fewer than a million children regularly attended school (probably about 10 percent of the school-age population) and of these few students, none were girls.  

As Afghanistan has become a higher strategic priority over the past couple of years, there has been a corresponding improvement in the reporting of data. On the whole, it can be said that the situation has been trending downward. From a security standpoint, by almost any measurement 2008 represented the most violent year since the onset of the war in 2001, and 2009 is clearly eclipsing 2008 as we write. Economically, while some macro indicators continue to rise, it is becoming more apparent that the benefits of economic growth are not being shared equitably, as most Afghans continue to live below or near the poverty line. Finally, public support for the nascent Afghan central government is rather low; corruption is rampant, and there is a dearth of qualified technocrats capable of running a functioning bureaucracy.


FYI: Number of troops in Afghanistan by country prior to the surge:

Agence France Presse, December 2, 2009 , “NATO, US troop numbers in Afghanistan,” p. online

There are already 112,000 troops in a UN-mandated, NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and separate US-led coalition, called Operation Enduring Freedom, that led the invasion that ousted the Taliban.

The United States is by far the largest contributor of troops to Afghanistan. The US military says there are 71,000 US troops currently in the country, plus around 42,000 more from allied nations.

This compares to 115,000 US troops in Iraq.

With new troops deploying into Afghanistan every day, it is difficult to be precise about force numbers.

Aside from the US-led coalition, here is a rough breakdown of the ISAF force based on information provided by the military in Kabul:

- There are 43 troop-contributing nations, including all 28 NATO members which provide the bulk of the forces.

According to the latest update on the ISAF website dated October 22, the force  numbers around 71,030 with the leading contributors as follows:

- United States: 34,800

- Britain: 9,000 -- total deployment set to hit 10,000

- Germany: 4,500

- Canada: 2,830

- France: 3,095 (3,750 according to updated French military figures)

- Italy: 2,795

- Poland: 1,910

- Netherlands: 2,160

- Australia: 1,350

- Spain: 1,000

- Romania: 990

- Turkey: 720

- Denmark: 690

The other participating states, listed in the order of their troop contributions, are:

Belgium (530), Czech Republic (480), Norway (480), Bulgaria (460), Sweden (430), Hungary (360), New Zealand (300), Croatia (290), Albania (250), Lithuania (250), Slovakia (245), Latvia (175), Finland (165), Macedonia (165), Estonia (150), Greece (145), Portugal (145), Slovenia (130), Azerbaijan (90), United Arab Emirates (25), Bosnia and Herzegovina (10), Ukraine (10), Singapore (9), Ireland (7), Luxembourg (8), Jordan (7), Austria (4), Iceland (2) and Georgia (1).

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