This report is an effort to help international actors better understand and increase their effectiveness in Afghanistan and other post-conflict cases. The report maps data collected from public information, media reporting, polling, and on-the-ground interviews to measure reconstruction in terms of the effects international efforts have had on people’s everyday lives. This innovative approach to data collection is designed to establish a baseline and promote realistic goals; work in situations where data are unreliable and anecdotes are rumor filled; and measure actual benefits, as opposed to simply money spent, projects completed, and other familiar tests. The report concludes that despite significant advancements since the fall of the Taliban, Afghanistan has not yet reached the “Viable Zone”–where people’s immediate needs have been met and a foundation for building long-term government and human capacity has been established. It makes actionable recommendations for ways to improve the reconstruction effort in the areas of security, governance, justice, economic opportunity, and social well-being.
The stabilization and reconstruction of failed states and war-torn societies has become one of the defining challenges of our era. International interventions have repeatedly been mounted in weak, disintegrating, and collapsed states that have become sources of regional disorder, transnational terror, and humanitarian calamity. Yet the process of nurturing stable, responsible governance has proven elusive. All too often, lofty and politically attractive goals have been proclaimed only to be rendered unattainable by unrealistic time frames, woefully inadequate resources, and constrained authorities. To bring strategic goals and resources into better balance, policymakers require an objective metrics system that will enable them to take stock of the magnitude of the challenges before intervening and to continuously track the progress of their efforts toward stabilization.