Reuters investigative journalist and Pulitzer Prize-winner David Rohde covered Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq for eight years.
Now he’s written a book, titled “Beyond War: Reimagining American Influence in a New Middle East,” that shreds America’s lack of civilian assistance programs during the wars.
Here’s what “dozens of U.S. officials” told Rohde, from an excerpt of the book published in Reuters:
Over and over, people from divergent backgrounds had reached the same conclusion: The best way to counter militancy was working through local allies and creating economic growth. Deadly force was necessary at times, but the civilian effort was as important as the military.
The U.S., by contrast, “rushed into countries, relied primarily on military force, and expected immediate change.”
Ryan Crocker, who served as the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan, explained to Rohde the American mindset of the U.S. in those countries.
“‘Let’s punch out their lights and realign their society,'” Crocker said. “And then when we find out the latter is more difficult than we expect, we say ‘OK, let’s go somewhere else.’ That’s what our enemies count on — and our allies fear.”
Rohde notes that of the roughly $1.3 trillion spent in Iraq and Afghanistan, 95% went to military costs.
He cites a major Oxfam study that found that 40 per cent of foreign aid spent in Afghanistan eventually returned to donor countries in the form of contractor profits and and consultant salaries.
He zeroes in on DynCorp International, a former Texas-based aviation maintenance company that became the State Department’s one-stop shop for everything from training local police to performing housekeeping on a base.
Between 2001 and 2011, the firm received $7.4 billion in contracts from the State Department and Pentagon in Afghanistan and Iraq. It was the third-largest American contractor in the two wars, behind only the massive oil and defence conglomerate Halliburton and Agility, which provided food to U.S. troops in Iraq.
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