Measuring and Accelerating Results in Afghanistan Reconstruction


Discussions about reconstruction plans for Afghanistan began internally in the Bush Administration in October 2001.  A preliminary “needs assessment” was completed at that time by the Treasury International Affairs staff.  This prepared the way for our first international donors conference held in November 2002 in Washington just after the Taliban fell from power in Kabul. This was followed by the highly successful fundraising event in Tokyo in January 2003 at which $4.5 billion was raised for reconstruction.


The speeches in this section address several important operational issues related to using these funds effectively and expeditiously over the next few years.


The first two items were short statements that I gave to the press during a visit to Afghanistan in September 2003.  The purpose of this visit was to evaluate—by seeing and talking to people on the ground—how donors funds were being used, to monitor final preparations for the new currency exchange (which was just about to begin), and to assess revenue problems that arose because certain regional governments (for example, Herat) had not been sending customs receipts to the national government in Kabul.   On my way to Afghanistan I stopped at the Asian Development Bank headquarters in Manila to stress the urgency of their assistance to Afghanistan reconstruction and to urge the leadership to give it a very high priority.


The first statement simply expresses my confidence that the upcoming currency exchange was on track and had every expectation of working successfully; the statement’s purpose was to give a needed confidence boost as apprehensions were growing among traders that glitches in the exchange were likely.   (The exchange turned out to be highly successful). The second statement brought public attention to my assessment that we had to make greater efforts to set timelines for measuring results and aim for better coordination of donor efforts on the ground in Afghanistan.


Upon returning to Washington I reported my concerns about the pace of reconstruction and gave a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations which outlined how we thought the donor community, including the international financial institutions, should address the timing problem.  Using the example of road-building, I put forth a notional set of timelines, including an example map, which was fleshed out in more detail by the United States and other donors over time.


The final item in this section is a speech delivered one year later in November 2003.  It called for yet additional acceleration in the reconstruction, in this case stressing the importance of the upcoming Afghan presidential elections and the need to show very visible progress in constructing schools, hospitals, and roads. This was part of a concerted effort in the Administration to speed up disbursements. The effort also included financial diplomatic work in the G7. In the end the election (held in October 2004) was very successful—the first democratic election in the history of Afghanistan.    


1. Afghanistan's New Currency, Kabul, Afghanistan, September 22, 2002

2. Progress on Reconstruction in Afghanistan, Kabul, Afghanistan, September 24, 2002

3. Making Reconstruction Work in Afghanistan, Remarks at the Council on Foreign Relations, Washington, D.C., October 9, 2002

4. The Time to Accelerate Reconstruction in Afghanistan, America Summit-Georgetown University, November 10, 2003