The United States’ Foreign Aid towards Afghanistan: Relation to Pope Leo XIII

Tristan D., Period 3

Foreign aid, meaning, “the international transfer of capital, goods, or services from a country or international organization for the benefit of the recipient country or its population” can be “economic, military, or emergency humanitarian”; all of which are meant to help fellow humans and in turn increase the happiness of one’s giving actions[1]. The United States is the 9th richest country in the entire world[2], substantially overpowering other countries with a gross domestic product (GDP) of $19.42 trillion U.S[3] dollars. Quite oppositely, Afghanistan is the 24th poorest country in the world[4], with a GDP of $20.04 billion U.S. dollars[5]. The aid given by the United States to Afghanistan to enhance their wealth, help manage recent issues, and incorporate contemporary ideas, is all in the mindset of preventing a future increase in poverty; in turn, this  increases the U.S.’s own happiness and self-worth, which according to Pope Leo XIII is the best thing life can give.

In the 2012 fiscal year, the United States gave $42 billion in aid to 186 countries. The Sub-Saharan African region (49 countries) received $7.2 billion dollars, while the South and Central Asia (only 13 countries) was given $15.1 billion dollars. Of that $15.1 billion, $12.9 was sent directly to Afghanistan. Almost 75% of this money, $9.95 billion, was specifically for military and security assistance[6]. However, an article published in the Journal of World Affairs in 2013 said that the money given to Afghanistan was an absolute failure. The title of the article was “The Money Pit: The Monstrous Failure of US Aid to Afghanistan”, and it stated that approximately 100 billion dollars has been appropriated for aid since 2002, and “all of that has not brought the United States or Afghanistan a single sustainable institution or program”[7].  As a result, many Americans might wonder what happened to all of this money, and if it really was charitable, since it didn’t go through as a success.

The main idea of these charitable acts surrounded a three year program that consisted of $50 million dollars being donated to train members of the new younger generation, in hopes that they would become industrious members of the Afghanistan society. However, two years into this three year plan, the inspector general of the agency looked at the situation and said that he “found little evidence that the project has made progress toward its goals”[8]. Yet this wasn’t the first time this issue had occurred; a full report showed that the USAID had paid little attention when working with this specific project, and that “unfortunately, the same can be said for almost every foreign-aid project undertaken in Afghanistan since the war began”[9]. Overall, the $100 billion nonmilitary funds and the $16.5 billion appropriated for “reconstruction” has not effectively created a single sustainable institution or program in the United States or Afghanistan. “Despite the billions of dollars in aid, state institutions remain fragile and unable to provide good governance, deliver basic services to the majority of the population, or guarantee human security”[10].

In a lighter sense, Karl Eikenberry said that Afghanistan “has more roads and schools than ever before. More people in Kabul have electricity. There have been impressive gains in education and health. Transportation in Afghanistan is better than any time in history”[11]. And while all of this is true, Afghanistan started from “an extremely low base”[12]. In 2001, Afghanistan was nearly completely illiterate and the capital of their country, Kabul, was full of mud huts, no strong building anywhere in sight. When looking at it this way, the United States’ extremely large donations have indeed helped out in the Afghan community. Although the charitable acts may not have effected Afghanistan as they would in other countries, no donation went unnoticed, which in turn caused the U.S. happiness.

Regarding the statistics of the current situation in Afghanistan, they still have the world’s highest infant mortality rate, even after the billions given by the United States. Precisely “one hundred and twenty-two of every thousand children die before they reach age one”, and “fifty-nine percent of the nation’s children grow up “stunted” for lack of nutrition during the early years of life”[13]. On top of life expectancy, “even after more than a decade of intensive development aid from not only the United States but dozens of other nations, Afghanistan still ranks near the bottom on per capita income, literacy, electricity usage, Internet penetration, and on the World Bank’s broad Human Development Index”[14]. These statistics simply prove even further that such a large sum of money still cannot fix the poor country of Afghanistan, which shows how unfair and unequal the world is.

While some humans make look down at the poor, Pope Leo XIII attempts to engrave his ideas of love and charity, which can be seen in some donators or charitable workers. He defines charity as “the mistress and the queen of virtues”[15]. Poe Leo states, “For, the happy results we all long for must be chiefly brought about by the plenteous outpouring of charity; of that true Christian charity which is fulfilling of the whole Gospel law, which is always ready to sacrifice itself for others’ sake, an is man’s surest antidote against worldly pride and immoderate love of self; that charity whose office is described and whose Godlike features are outlined by the Apostle St. Paul”[16]. Regarding his beliefs, it is a human’s duty to do charitable acts, and help out other humans. If a Christian has money, whether it’s in excess or insufficient for their needs, Pope Leo believes that it is their deed to give to those in need.

According to Rerum Novarum, a widely accepted theological document, “Charity is patient, is kind,…seeketh not her own,…sufferth all things,…endurth all things”[17]. As Afghanistan is in desolation, the United States needs to give money and help out fellow countries. Although the US could clearly use those billions of dollars in a multitude of ways, Pope Leo believes that all money should be given to those whom are more in need of it. Therefore, even though the money given to Afghanistan may have not been extremely effective or used in the correct way, it was good according to the Pope, and wasn’t wasted.

Between Pope Leo XIII and an average American, there is a strong, clear difference on the ideals of charity and the money given. As seen in the first article, The Money Pit, the majority of the money given to Afghanistan was unhelpful and was quite ineffective regarding increasing Afghanistan’s GDP or overall income of the country. So to an average American or citizen of any country, the charitable acts are looked upon as a failure and as a waste of money; money that could have been used elsewhere in the United States. But because of Pope Leo’s view on happiness, his beliefs surround the topic of charity. Therefore, readers and followers of the Pope’s ideals know that the money given to Afghanistan was an extremely loving act, and that the United States did a good deed by giving that money, whether it worked as well as it should have or not. A main idea regarding this is the fact that if no one were to try to help Afghanistan, and never gave them money, nothing would ever change. However, with the billions sent there from the United States, things were changed, and the next donations by any country will affect the Afghan community to an even greater extent.

In conclusion, the money sent to Afghanistan was indeed good. In light of Pope Leo, whether the financial aid was effective or not, it was necessary. However, the main problem is that the majority of Americans do not have as much charity and love in themselves as Pope Leo. Therefore, Americans may have issues with the money, which was “wasted” in their eyes, and become frustrated with global financial aid. The happiness that is typically brought along with the giving of money or acts of charity was not felt by the average American, because they did not directly do the acts, the United States government did. Overall, whether one thinks that the money was wasted or not wasted completely depends on their status as a human; if they have ever been poor, if they are religious and have a kind soul, or their current stand with the United States government. Whether one agrees with it or not, the better mind and beliefs lie with Pope Leo; therefore, the money given to Afghanistan by the United States was unquestionably good in the light of love and charity.







[1] Williams, Victoria. “Foreign Aid.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Accessed May 04, 2016.

[2] Pasquali, Valentina. “Global Finance Magazine – The Richest Countries in the World.” Recent GFM Updates RSS. Accessed May 04, 2016.

[3] “United States Data.” World Bank. Accessed May 04, 2016.

[4] Pasquali, Valentina. “Global Finance Magazine – The Poorest Countries in the World.” Recent GFM Updates RSS. Accessed May 04, 2016.

[5] “Afghanistan Data.” World Bank. Accessed May 04, 2016.

[6] Dhillon, Kiran. “Afghanistan Is The Big Winner In U.S. Foreign Aid.” Time. Accessed May 04, 2016.

[7] Brinkley, Joel. “Money Pit: The Monstrous Failure of US Aid to Afghanistan.” World Affairs Journal. Accessed May 04, 2016.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] “Aid and Conflict in Afghanistan.” – International Crisis Group. 2014. Accessed May 04, 2016.

[11] Brinkley, Joel. “Money Pit: The Monstrous Failure of US Aid to Afghanistan.” World Affairs Journal. Accessed May 04, 2016.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Pope Leo XIII. “Rerum Novarum (May 15, 1891) | LEO XIII.” Rerum Novarum (May 15, 1891) | LEO XIII. Accessed May 04, 2016.


[16] Ibid.

[17] Ibid.


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