National Security

Bipartisan Bill to Bar U.S. Funds to Afghanistan Would Lead to Government Collapse

Experts warn of power struggle among terrorists, regional nations if America withdraws

Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers patrol the Shah Wali Kot district of Kandahar province
Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers patrol the Shah Wali Kot district of Kandahar province on May 23 / Getty Images

A bipartisan bill aiming to cut funding for the war in Afghanistan would severely destabilize the nation's security environment, particularly amid a Taliban resurgence, according to regional experts.

Anthony Cordesman, the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said a withdrawal of U.S. funds to Kabul would signal the inevitable collapse of the Afghan government to extremist groups and regional powers such as Russia and Iran.

"This [legislation] would be essentially telling the entire region, as well as terrorists and insurgents, that the Afghan government has no practical chance at surviving," Cordesman told the Washington Free Beacon. "What would happen is the entire modern sector of the economy, which is heavily dependent on outside aid, would collapse. You're not talking about the country breaking up, you're talking about the country imploding."

The measure, introduced in March by Reps. Walter Jones (R., N.C.) and John Garamendi (D., Calif.), would prohibit the United States from providing money to efforts in Afghanistan beginning in October 2019. The American embassy and intelligence gathering activities would be the only two entities exempted from the ban.

The bill has nine cosponsors—three Republicans and six Democrats—and is largely intended to force a floor debate on the U.S. end goals and whether Washington should continue engagement in Afghanistan.

Jones told the Military Times on Tuesday that House members would prefer President Donald Trump to "have blood on his hands" instead of Congress.

"That's just my feeling. I can't prove it," Jones said. "But I know one thing: We're not debating any foreign policy involving our men and women in uniform. And it's both parties crying for a debate."

Afghanistan has received more than $100 billion in international aid over the past decade, the majority of it from the United States, but long-term reconstruction efforts have been largely unsuccessful. The government in Kabul meanwhile has failed to cultivate a sustainable development strategy that would wean the country off its reliance on foreign cash.

Cordesman said the current trajectory is untenable, but warned that if the United States were to immediately withdraw aid, NATO allies would likely follow and Afghans would turn to their one meaningful source of exports: narcotics.

Michael Rubin, a resident scholar on the Middle East at the American Enterprise Institute, said it is understandable for lawmakers to want to halt U.S. funding to the country given frequent examples of misspent aid, but he said Congress needs to demand a strategy from the Pentagon rather than handicap U.S. forces.

"The question that needs to be asked is can we afford for Afghanistan to become a safe haven? How much money is it worth to prevent that from happening?" Rubin said in an interview. "If the politicians vote to freeze American funding, they need to determine whether they believe there could never again be an attack on the United States from terrorists based in Afghanistan."