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The new Afghanistan Index: A view from Australia

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COMMENTS

5 August 2008 16:56

Guest blogger:  Jason Campbell is a research analyst in foreign policy at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC

Beginning this week, the Brookings Institution is rolling out an Afghanistan version of the longstanding Iraq Index, a comprehensive collection of metrics whose aim is to provide a quantifiable, unbiased source for assessing the progress of what some have called 'armed nation-building'. By design, the Afghanistan Index is composed only of charts and graphs based on the best publicly available information, and is completely void of personal commentary and analysis. It is also ongoing and will be updated on a weekly basis (by yours truly).

On first glance, perhaps the biggest thing that stands out is that the war in Afghanistan, in stark contrast to Iraq, is a truly international endeavor. Because of this we are hoping that as the study grows and develops it will gain resonance 'outside the Beltway' (the oft-gridlocked motorway that encircles Washington) and be a reliable resource in the nations which have volunteered their resources to such an important mission. In that spirit, I want to demonstrate how anyone interested in Australia’s contribution will find the Index useful.

In scrolling through the PDF file the best place to start is on page 8, which displays an Order of Battle map showing that Australia’s troops are currently based in Uruzgan province. On the following page you will learn that the Aussie contingent is currently roughly 1,100 personnel. What’s the current situation in Uruzgan, you ask? Continue on to the bottom of page 13 to find that since January 2007 Uruzgan is the 5th most violent province (out of 34) in terms of insurgent attacks. Look on page 14 to learn that attacks thus far in 2008 have more than doubled in the province compared with the same period in 2007. Finally (from the security perspective at least), the graph on the bottom of page 6 shows the nationalities of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice; 6 of them have been Australian soldiers.

What about aid money, you say? Well, page 25 shows that Australia has scored high marks in keeping its promises with regard to contributions. Of the nearly US$195 million it pledged it would provide from 2002-2008, all of it has been disbursed (an unfortunate rarity among major donors) and a further US$27.6 has been pledged between now and 2011.

I must conclude with the caveat that, while this information may be valuable in demonstrating Australia’s material contributions to Afghanistan, one must digest it in the context of the study as a whole. If one thing is apparent it’s that we’re all in this together and better coordinating our efforts is vital to success.

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