- The Washington Times - Monday, February 8, 2010

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

At the Jan. 28 London confer -ence seeking interna -tional support for Afghanistan, British Prime Minister Gor -don Brown announced the creation of the “Peace and Reintegration Trust Fund,” which would finance the reintegration of Taliban and other Afghan insurgents who lay down their weapons and swear allegiance to Afghanistan’s constitution.

Principally, the fund would pay for work-related training and provide stipends to the former insurgents as they labor to enter the legitimate Afghan work force. Approximately $140 million has been committed to the fund already. With an estimated $1 billion needed to pay for this program over the next three years, the fund has just 14 percent what’s required to achieve its goals.

For most of us, achieving 14 percent of our targeted funds coming right out of the blocks would signal a great start. Unfortunately, this is not normally the case with international trust funds, as pledges rapidly taper off soon after the initial appeals for support. Rather, trust funds tend to be political substitute for taking substantive action, giving the appearance of committing substantial resources. History has shown that political leaders often endorse the idea of a trust fund but often do not pledge (or deliver) the funds they promise.

In the case of Afghanistan, four significant international trust funds already exist, the Afghan National Army Trust Fund, the Law and Order Trust Fund, the Counter Narcotics Trust Fund, and the Afghan Reconstruction Trust Fund.

The Afghan National Army Trust Fund was created in 2007 to help fund the transportation and installation costs of equipment donations by International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) nations to the Afghan National Army. Today, the fund remains largely empty. The Law and Order Trust Fund (LOFTA), which funds the development of the law enforcement organizations in Afghanistan, has just 10 real donors, of which the United States and the European Union are the only substantial donors. LOFTA’s annual report highlights that it ekes by day to day and cannot plan or forecast into the future because of funding shortfalls. The Counter Narcotics Trust Fund, officially established in 2005, was created to mobilize additional resources needed by the Afghan government to implement its National Drug Control Strategy. Its goal is $900 million, but after five years, it has received just $100 million.

The Afghan Reconstruction Trust Fund is the rare good-news story. It is one of the few funds that attracted significant support. It gained 30 donor countries, of which 15 are offering considerable pledges. Since its inception in 2002, this fund has drawn and allocated about $600 million annually. The fund is distributed by the World Bank to finance reconstruction projects as outlined by the Afghan National Development Strategy and National Solidarity Program.

The success of the Afghan Reconstruction Trust Fund can be attributed in large part to the organization that manages the fund - the World Bank, a well-established, financially savvy organization. Unfortunately, as is often the case, the other funds were created and handed over to relatively new organizations that do not have the financial management credentials for the task - a recipe for failure.

So far, few specific details have come forth concerning the management of the new Peace and Reintegration Trust Fund, and as the saying goes, “The devil’s in the details.” Regardless of your position on whether or not this trust fund is mor- ally or ethically supportable, without a well-defined and agreed program supported by a clear purpose, led by an extremely competent team, this trust fund is doomed.

For now, the question is: Can we trust that the Afghan Peace and Reintegration Trust Fund will be as successful as Mr. Brown and his co-sponsors were in achieving a political victory just by announcing the funds’ existence? If history is our guide, the odds are against it.

U.S. Army Col. Patrick T. Warren is a federal executive fellow for the 21st Century Defense Initiative at the Brookings Institution.

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