Is Afghanistan Getting Better?

Andrew Sullivan —  Dec 14 2011 @ 7:03pm


Charles Kenny says the war-torn country is looking up:

World Bank data and the recent Afghanistan Mortality Survey suggest heartening progress in quality of life over the past decade as well. Not least, adult mortality has been declining both because of reduced violence and improved conditions for good health. Death rates among men ages 15 to 59 has approximately halved over the last 10 years. For men and boys together, war and other violence now account for about the same number of deaths as drownings and traffic accidents combined. War-related injuries kill about as many males as die from diabetes-related complications and one-quarter the number who die from infections and parasitic disease. Additionally, deaths from infectious diseases have also been declining, not least because the proportion of the population (some 48 percent) with access to clean water more than doubled between 2000 and 2008.

Joshua Foust darkens the picture:

Things in much of the country really are not good, and leaving the internet data archives (and even Kabul!) can show that to anyone brave enough to look for it. If the international community had spent $100 billion on development over ten years and accomplished nothing, that would be shocking. So it’s no surprise that some things have improved. What Kenny should be asking isn’t, did we get anything for our vast expenditure, but have the improvements been worth the cost? And could another policy have achieved the same or more at less cost?

(Photo: US crew chief sergeant Monique Thevenet of US Army's Task Force Lift 'Dust Off', Charlie Company 1-171 Aviation regiment takes a stretcher to the Shock Trauma Platoon (STP) to carry the wounded Sayed Wali from the Afghan National Police (ANP) to a medevac helicopter for his transferr to a hospital in Helmand province on November 7, 2011. Sayed Wali was wounded by a grenade losing three fingers and wounds on the abdomen. The United Nations says the number of civilians killed in the Afghanistan war in the first half of this year rose 15 percent to 1,462, with insurgents behind 80 percent. By Behrouz Mehri/AFP/Getty Images)