The AfPak Metrics – First Reaction
Now 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.