- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 13, 2014

It is hard to tell amid the daily reports of death and destruction, but Afghanistan has made great social and economic progress since U.S. troops, U.S. money and U.S. aid workers invaded a dozen years ago.

Donald Sampler, who directs the Afghanistan office for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), told a House subcommittee Thursday that 900,000 Afghan children were enrolled in school in 2001, virtually none of them girls. Today, the number is approaching 8 million, and about one-third are girls.

During the same period, life expectancy has risen from 42 years to 62. The child mortality rate has fallen from 172 to 97 per 1,000 live births.

Electricity now reaches 18 percent of Afghans. Land line and cell towers provide phone service to 90 percent of the population. The telecom industry provides about 100,000 local jobs.

From a Taliban regime that oppressed women, the new democratically elected government has three women in the Cabinet and 68 members of the 249-seat parliament.

“During the past decade, Afghanistan has made remarkable development gains across multiple sectors due to the whole-of-government efforts of the U.S., along with our international partners and the Afghan people,” Mr. Sampler told the House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee on national security.

The hearing was held to determine what happens to USAID’s civilian workforce if all American troops leave at year’s end.

The Government Accountability Office submitted a report that said the State Department and Pentagon are now jointly devising a withdrawal plan. In just one year, 2013, USAID provided the Afghan government with direct assistance of $800 million.

Unknown is how the U.S. will monitor those U.S.-funded projects across the county with no American troops to provide security and little check on corruption that still plagues Kabul. Already there was locations USAID civilians cannot visit.

• Rowan Scarborough can be reached at rscarborough@washingtontimes.com.

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