Paper No. 226-7
Presentation Time: 3:15 PM
A DECADE LATER IN AFGHANISTAN: SUSTAINABILITY OF US ARMY AGRICULTURAL DEVELOPMENT TEAMS’ EFFORTS
The World Bank suggests that the impact of foreign aid is unknown; with development efforts in Afghanistan being the most challenging in the world. Major gaps between donor-country policies and host-nation realities, a primacy of output over outcomes and the “militarization” of aid make development efforts unlikely to achieve large and persistent effects. Regardless, the US government provided over $125 billion in reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan since 2002. Innovatively, the US Army developed Agricultural Development Teams (ADT), which were comprised of hand-selected, soldier-experts from select state national guards (cf., Stewart, 2014). These specialized counterinsurgency teams spent a mere 0.0004% of the reconstruction budget across Afghanistan to improve agriculture by implementing Afghan-first projects directly with(in) local communities. As a case study, the Texas ADT II (2009, Ghazni Province) developed 27 projects, which are detectable using time-stamped satellite imagery. Diachronous photogrammetric analysis (2009-2019), including agricultural-growth changes and structure-extent changes, was used to record project longevity/impact. Over the past decade, 18% of project impacts are considered “positive,” 59% are considered “no change” and 21% are considered a “loss” (2% were unplanned effects). Only two of the 27 projects are “positive” for the entire 10-year period—Ghazni Agriculture Complex and the Ghazni Minarets. The Arbaba Environmental Protection Park showed no progress after 2010; however, it did spark adjacent development. Some failed projects were the Ghazni Experimental Farm (razed in 2010) and the (apparent) cessation of operations at the Ghazni Demonstration Farm. It appears that even well-thought and meaningful development efforts provided by specialized soldier-expert teams working with(in) the local communities on Afghan-first projects were not enough to overcome the exceedingly complex and difficult conditions in Afghanistan. Despite these disappointing, “break-even,” decade-scale results of ADT efforts in Afghanistan, the cost-benefit analysis of the ADT effort should be positive. Being years ahead of the academic and NGO literature, ADTs were what development agencies dream of and should be included in future military-development efforts.