Making the case for funding capacity building in the International Affairs Budget

October 27, 2010 By Andy Amsler

Given the drastic decline in the numbers of diplomats and development experts since the Cold War, it will take some time to bring new folks on board and get them properly trained.  This is why it’s so important to fund capacity building and personnel in the International Affairs Budget.  Just this morning, The Washington Post points to a recent audit of development aid in Afghanistan by the Special Investigator General for Afghanistan Reconstruction that calls for better training of foreign service officers and integration with their military counterparts.   State’s “Diplomacy 3.0” initiative is working to recruit, hire, and train new FSOs quickly to meet the demands being asked of our civilian forces, but to do this, the resources must be there.

Must Reads

Who’s In the News

Clinton sees diplomats of the future in cargo pants as well as pinstripes (Andrew Quinn – Reuters)

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has urged Congress to finance a major new U.S. push on overseas development aid, arguing that only by building up a global middle class will the United States increase its own national security. Clinton, in an article in Foreign Affairs magazine which previews a pending State Department report on diplomacy and development, says it is essential for Congress to keep the money flowing even as the United States grapples with its own financial problems at home. “The American people must understand that spending taxpayer dollars on diplomacy and development is in their interest,” Clinton wrote, saying it was time to put to rest “old debates on foreign aid.”

Smart Power

Development aid in key Afghan province lacking in oversight, audit finds (Karen De Young – Washington Post)

U.S. and other international development programs in a key Afghan province are “incoherent” and lack mechanisms to avoid wasteful overlap or to monitor their success, according to a new report by government auditors. More than $100 million in U.S. aid to Nangahar province, an area in eastern Afghanistan often cited as a model for success elsewhere in the country, was spent in fiscal 2010 with little or no input from local officials, according to the audit by the congressionally mandated Special Investigator General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, or SIGAR.

Politics/Foreign Policy

Turning the Taliban Against Al Qaeda (Scott Atran – New York Times)

For the last week there have been widespread news reports that NATO is facilitating talks between the Afghan government and Taliban leaders, even as it routs Taliban forces  from their main stronghold in Kandahar. The United States plan seems clear: allow for “preliminary” talks to end the war through a broad-based “reconciliation” process, but don’t get serious about a deal until beefed-up coalition forces have gained the initiative on the battlefield. Yet, despite assertions by senior NATO officials that they can defeat the Taliban militarily if given enough money and men, and that military pressure will start the Taliban thinking about alternatives to fighting, the surge in southern Afghanistan appears only to have expanded the scope of the Taliban’s activity and entrenched their resolve to fight on until America tires and leaves. In truth, the real pressure to show that there is light at the end of the tunnel is not on the Taliban, but the United States, so it can start drawing down troops next year as President Obama has pledged. This is why NATO and Washington are only now openly discussing the talks, although they have been going on in fits and starts for years. True, some senior Taliban leaders are playing along — but this is not so much because they fear defeat at the hands of the Americans, but because they worry that their new generation of midlevel commanders is getting out of control.

Cantor’s Call for Splitting Out Israel Funding Meets Resistance (Emily Cadei – CQ Today)

Advocates of foreign aid funding are pushing back against a proposal by House Minority Whip Eric Cantor to pare the foreign operations budget, with the exception of aid to Israel. Cantor told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency over the weekend that Congress should look at separating tax dollars directed to Israel from the rest of the money Congress budgets for the State Department and foreign operations, making it easier to defund other elements of that budget. Most of the foreign aid that the United States provides Israel each year comes in the form of military assistance. The White House requested $3 billion for Israel in fiscal 2011, making it the largest recipient of U.S. aid. Though many foreign aid boosters say a move to wall off funding for Israel is unlikely to succeed, they acknowledge that the effort reflects a growing antipathy to foreign aid funding on Capitol Hill.

Haiti cholera toll near 300, disease seen “settling” (Joseph Guyler Delva– Reuters)

Deaths from Haiti’s cholera epidemic approached 300 on Tuesday, and health experts said the illness would “settle” in the poor Caribbean nation, joining other endemic diseases like malaria and tuberculosis. The week-old epidemic of the deadly diarrheal disease has so far mostly affected the central Artibonite and Central Plateau regions, with an accumulated 295 deaths and 3,612 cases registered to date, Haitian health authorities said. Although the number of new deaths and cases has slowed slightly from earlier days, a United Nations-led international medical response is fighting to prevent the outbreak from penetrating Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince, which is crowded with 1.3 million homeless survivors of a January 12 earthquake.