Mona Yacoubian, a former AID official in the Middle East Bureau, explains, cuts in foreign aid will endanger the United States:
While the soft power aspect of U.S. development assistance is important, increasingly the work performed by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and others must be recognized as a strategic asset that is no less powerful than the military in confronting multifaceted challenges, and for a fraction of the cost — less than one percent of the total federal budget. Indeed, in a letter to Congress last month, more than 120 retired military leaders underscored their “strong conviction that elevating and strengthening diplomacy and development are critical to keeping America safe.” Recognizing the complexity of crises in the 21st century world, they noted that these problems “do not have military solutions alone.” Nowhere is this more apparent than the Arab world, which suffers from the Islamic State’s barbaric extremism; wrenching conflicts in Libya, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen; and massive refugee flows to Lebanon, Jordan, and beyond. Youth unemployment, poverty, corruption, and unaccountable governance add to the region’s volatility.
The U.S. military has spearheaded the counter-Islamic State campaign, but it is USAID, together with the U.N. and other international partners, that plays a key role in stabilizing areas liberated from the Islamic State. In his March 9 testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, General Joseph Votel, Commander of U.S. Central Command, underscored that military might alone is not sufficient to defeat the Islamic State:
Read it all here.The military can help to create the necessary conditions; however, there must be concomitant progress in other complementary areas (e.g., reconstruction, humanitarian aid, stabilization, political reconciliation). There are a variety of interagency programs and efforts underway that are essential to translating military gains into actual achievement of stated goals and objectives. Support for these endeavors is vital to our success.This is where USAID and its partners come in. Beyond providing critically needed humanitarian assistance and insuring access to essential services such as water, electricity, and health care, U.S. assistance helps strengthen local governance and ideally will facilitate the sustainable return of those who have been displaced from their homes. Successful stabilization of these areas will help prevent the emergence of dangerous power vacuums that can lead to renewed conflict, vastly diminishing the prospects that the United States will need to return to battle the Islamic State 2.0.