National Solidarity Program

NATIONAL SOLIDARITY PROGRAM…. Once in a while, a good op-ed is even better when you read between the lines and appreciate the point the writer hopes to make with subtlety.

Today, for example, World Bank president Robert Zoellick, who replaced Paul Wolfowitz about a year ago, has an important piece in the Washington Post that might get overlooked.

During a recent visit to Afghanistan, I was reminded of the counterinsurgency principles of “clear, hold, build.” In the language of the World Bank Group, that translates to “security, governance and development.” As events in Iraq have shown, who assumes responsibility for these principles is as important as the principles themselves: Local ownership is key to achieving legitimacy and effectiveness. […]

The National Solidarity Program (NSP) that the World Bank helped launch with former finance minister Ashraf Ghani in 2003 empowers more than 20,000 elected Community Development Councils to allocate modest grants to local priorities, whether micro-hydroelectric generators, schools, roads, irrigation, erosion or water supply projects. It touches more than 17 million Afghans in all 34 provinces and has an economic rate of return of close to 20 percent. The program links self-help with self-determination.

In many ways, the NSP is a silver-bullet program for Afghanistan. It gets needed resources to Afghan villages; it promotes stability by connecting local governance and development with the national government in Kabul; and it fosters democracy and accountability throughout the country.

The problem, of course, is that the U.S. is poised to cut funding to the NSP, in part because of Wolfowitz’s ineptitude, which no doubt frustrates Zoellick, though he wasn’t in a position to admit it in the WaPo op-ed. Zoellick couldn’t very well write, “Screw Wolfowitz and fund the f*#%ing program,” so he diplomatically explained what the NSP can do, why it’s important, and concluded that we have a “choice.”

For more on this, Gregory Warner had a fascinating piece in the Monthly last year, called, “The Schools the Taliban Won’t Torch.” Take a look.