The Zeitgeist Politics

Global Politics with a focus on The Middle East

The AfPak Metrics – First Reaction

with 7 comments

afghanistan_pakistanNow while Pakistan may be trying to (belatedly) kick up a storm or two by complaining against being lumped with Afghanistan – thus giving rise to the acronym of the year – AfPak, the Obama administration is getting down to work to start to have some measurable goals by which to measure progress in the two countries by. After all, they’re pouring in millions of dollars in aid and perhaps they don’t want to f**k up the endgame (a phrase that’s been stuck in my head since I picked up Ghost Wars).

Foreign Policy has a copy of the draft metrics and it’s definitely worth a read. However, the loopholes in the document have already begun to emerge in the commentary about the document.

One of the key problems is that it isn’t measurable in terms of achievable goals. Vague sentences like ‘Support for human rights’ and ‘Status of relations between Afghanistan and its other neighbors’ are hard to measure. How do you prove the level of work that has been done on this front? What I’m hoping is that there are KPIs actually attached to the metrics that would prove if these laudable metrics are to be measured.

Secondly it puts stock in ‘public opinion’ and ‘level of trust by the people’. Now how is this to be measured? Opinion polls are fairly small in terms of sampling, the surveys are usually done in urban and metropolitan centers and while they provide useful insight on some key areas (as the Pew results did) they can’t speak for the entire country.

The metrics for Afghanistan are a bit more measurable as compared to Pakistan, including as @colincookman pointed out, the fact that they’ve included:

Effectiveness of the Afghan Government in collecting revenues (both in absolute terms and as a percentage of budget requirements) and executing its budget at the national, provincial, and local levels

Another point that has to be made is that these metrics may just remain that. Strengthening democratic institutions and looking at demonstrable actions by the Afghanistan and Pakistan governments against corruption will be seen as meddling into their internal affairs by political parties, as well as it’s an inherent culture at the government level that the US has learned to live with and accept. There won’t be – as far as I can predict – any major repercussions if either of the governments do not step up. The most that the US can hope for is a certain degree of stability in the national government and will obviously try to ensure that they remain in power so that it doesn’t affect US policy.

It’ll definitely be interesting to see how the Obama administration works with the Afghanistan and Pakistan governments to be able to deliver on these. I would also be interested to see if this has any affect on US policy in the region and whether there is any shift from the current state of affairs. But what’s really the trick, and the Obama administration probably knows this, is that they are dealing with two governments who don’t really have the trust of the people. And that trust is being eroded day by day. But short of pulling their sleeves up and getting right in to fix the deeply rooted governance issues,  the administration will have to keep their faith in the military.


Written by Saba Imtiaz

September 17, 2009 at 4:39 am

7 Responses

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  1. The US have invested way too much in Pakistan, in the last several decades.

    In case of a failure in the AfPak The Americans are simply not going to walk away quietly, leaving Pakistan alone !


    September 17, 2009 at 11:42 am

    • Well they did walk away from Afghanistan after pumping lots of money into the resistance against the Soviets so you never know 😉


      September 17, 2009 at 2:30 pm

  2. This reminds me of my AIESEC days. 🙂

    Sohaib Athar

    September 17, 2009 at 1:53 pm

  3. That’s precisely what I said, Sohaib!


    September 17, 2009 at 2:29 pm

  4. Well, then, it stands proved – AIESEC does in fact teach skills readily applicable in the real world. Now I think I should rush my resume to Holbrooke, highlighting past experience.

    Sohaib Athar

    September 17, 2009 at 4:02 pm

  5. The content and scheme of the metrics is worrying.

    1> Afghanistan is an occupied country. Efforts to dictate what their internal policies are based on a misguided “we are the good-guys” image.

    2> When it comes to Pakistan, it gets very worrying. Why is the Obama administration trying to interfere in the internal workings of another country. This constant manipulation is what has lead to a permanent state of war in Afghanistan. Now they are spreading that to Pakistan. I do not get it.

    3> Irrespective of the state of democracy in any country, no superpower should be allowed to interfere and manipulate reform. It will take time, but the effort has to be driven from the inside and not the outside. Civil Rights in the US did not come about overnight. But the eventual victory was lasting because the struggle was driven internally.

    The point I am trying to make is, that the intrusive intervention policies of the US government have more often than not benefited a handful of disaster capitalists and driven the other stakeholders to war and/or poverty. These “metrics” are in the same direction.

    These metrics do very little to address the urgent need for peace and stability in South Asia.


    Anand Bala

    September 18, 2009 at 5:57 pm

    • Anand:

      – I think the Afghan war comes more from an American perspective that they need to leave the country with some degree of stability so that they don’t have a repeat of the Al Qaeda-is-plotting-to-attack-US-targets-from-Afghan soil episodes. And perhaps it may come from a genuine interest that they cannot just abandon the mess that they have helped create.

      – With Pakistan, its a repeat of the same situation, the security concern. The haven it has/had become for terrorists to operate is a matter of concern to the US. Also, look at it from a more regional perspective and the Americans do worry: if they don’t have a handle on what’s happening in Pakistan or can’t control/effect policy they could tie up with Iran/China. I also think the American involvement in Pakistan is often over-blown: they’ve stepped into broker political deals et al (hence achieving some degree of good) but they’re given far more blame than they’re due. A lot of the problems in Pakistan are self-created/mismanaged.

      – Agree. The misguided ‘lets bring democracy to Iraq and free em from a dictator’ theory that was cited to invade Iraq was yet another effort to promote democratic reform by using military force. If anything, military dictatorships in Pakistan are probably better for the US since there’s more stability in the short term. But from a long-term perspective, yes, the struggle will need to be driven internally. And it has: I think the restoration of judiciary movement in Pakistan was a great example of that. It wasn’t instigated by the US, it was very much a country’s movement with minimal foreign involvement till the very end, so to speak.

      I think when we look at the metrics we have to realize that with the amount of aid and the military support the US has poured in to Pakistan and Afghanistan, they do need to justify what results it has yielded. In that terms, its extremely good to see a measure of accountability, however as I wrote, in the absence of any indicators to mark how they’ll be measuring these metrics, it’ll remain a document of no value.

      Saba Imtiaz

      September 18, 2009 at 6:47 pm

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