The United States has funded extensive “reconstruction and relief” programs in Afghanistan since the war in Afghanistan began in 2001. As of September 2012 (the latest reliable data), allotments for those programs totaled about $79.6 billion. 
Funding for reconstruction and relief largely comes from the Department of Defense, although the Department of State, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and other government agencies also contribute. Reconstruction and relief efforts are generally separated into three categories: Security, Governance and Development, and Humanitarian.
Security, whose funding dwarfs the other two allotments, includes anti-narcotics efforts as well as money to train and support the Afghan military.
Governance and development finances programs to build roads, schools, medical clinics, and other infrastructure in Afghanistan.
Humanitarian funding includes the establishment and maintenance of refugee camps, as well as the distribution of food aid.
All funding for reconstruction and relief is independent of funding associated with Operation Enduring Freedom, the official name for the war in Afghanistan. As of September 2012, the costs associated with Operation Enduring Freedom were about $440 billion.
  1. The U.S. strategic goal for Afghanistan is “to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al-Qaeda and prevent its return to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Specific objectives in Afghanistan in support of this goal are to (1) deny safe haven to al-Qaeda and (2) deny the Taliban the ability to overthrow the Afghan government.”


    Can you think of ways that security funding from “reconstruction and relief” aid would support this goal?


    • Answer

      Security funding allows the purchase of aircraft, missiles, weapons, ammunition, and combat vehicles for the Afghan military. Security-centered aid supports Operation Enduring Freedom, the actual war in Afghanistan, which is American-led but includes troops from more than two dozen nations.


      Materials purchased with security funds help establish a well-prepared and well-armed Afghan military, which includes both the Afghan National Army and the Afghan Air Force. The Afghan military defends Afghanistan’s republican government against al-Qaeda and Taliban-affiliated insurgents. Insurgents seek a total withdrawal of all foreign forces from Afghanistan and the re-establishment of a Muslim fundamentalist theocracy, which was overthrown in 2001.

  2. Can you think of ways that governance and development funding would support the U.S. strategic goal in Afghanistan?


    • Answer

      Governance and development funding supports the creation of stable infrastructure in Afghanistan. This includes building roads and schools, as well as establishing a reliable health-care system and judiciary.


      Infrastructure helps secure Afghanistan as a stable republic in many ways:

      • Building roads and bridges increases the opportunity for trade and communication across vast areas of the country. This contributes to a stable financial network less likely to fall victim to terrorism. Schools expand educational opportunities to girls and children in rural areas of the country.
      • Education can empower local leaders to resist pressure from insurgents and establish a more just and democratic community. A more educated population can also contribute to a more stable society with the creation of more middle-class jobs, including doctors, lawyers, and teachers. A more educated voting population is also less likely to rely on foreign leadership, easing the eventual American transition out of the country.
      • Health-care systems allow those injured in the war to receive more immediate and effective medical treatment. It also allows Afghans with illnesses, injuries, or disabilities to return to school or work as soon and as safely as possible. This creates a more stable economy and reliable work force.
      • A legal system, enforced by local courts, creates the rule of law. Insurgents can be tried and convicted in courts of law, protecting local communities and the government itself.

  3. Much of the security and governance and development funding is geared toward anti-drug activities.


    What do you think these activities involve, and how do you think they support the U.S. strategic goal in Afghanistan?


    • Answer

      Anti-drug (sometimes called anti-narcotic) programs target many different aspects of opium poppy production. Some programs work with farmers, to help them resist pressure to cultivate the outlawed crop. Other programs focus on law enforcement, to create a series of laws that hold criminals responsible for drug-related activity. Still other programs work with international agencies to slow the global trade in opium.


      The billions of dollars produced by selling either opium poppies or manufactured drugs help finance Afghanistan’s insurgents. Afghanistan is also a leading supplier of the illegal heroin trade in Asia, Europe, and the Americas. This helps create an international network vulnerable to terrorists both inside and outside Afghanistan.

  4. Can you think of ways that humanitarian funding support the U.S. strategic goal in Afghanistan?


    • Answer

      Humanitarian aid offers stability and refuge to victims of conflict, poverty, and natural disasters in Afghanistan. One program supports refugees returning to their local communities, a process called “voluntary repatriation.” Another (Food for Peace) is the largest distributor of food aid in the world. Yet another provides assistance to victims of natural hazards such as floods, earthquakes, and Afghanistan’s freezing winter temperatures.


      A more independent community is generally less vulnerable to insurgent forces, and humanitarian aid creates goodwill toward foreign forces.

  • The third-largest allotment of “reconstruction and relief” funding in Afghanistan—about $3.5 billion—went to International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement (INCLE). INCLE is a broad-based program that aims to reduce Afghan farmers’ economic reliance on opium crops and advise Afghan leaders on legal and political issues surrounding the international drug trade. INCLE is classified as “security” funding.
  • The second-largest allotment of “reconstruction and relief” funding in Afghanistan—about $15 billion—went to the Economic Support Fund (ESF). ESF supports infrastructure in Afghanistan, including building roads and schools, and helping establish a reliable health-care system and judiciary. ESF is classified as “governance and development” funding.
  • The largest single allotment of “reconstruction and relief” funding to Afghanistan—about $48 billion—went to the Afghan Security Forces Fund (ASFF). ASFF supports the purchase of aircraft, missiles, weapons, ammunition, and combat vehicles. ASFF is classified as “security” funding.

portion of something marked for a specific purpose.

Department of Defense

department of the U.S. government whose mission is "providing the military forces needed to deter war and protect the security of our country."

Department of State

department of U.S. government responsible for international relations, whose mission is to "Create a more secure, democratic, and prosperous world for the benefit of the American people and the international community."

Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)
adjective, noun

agency of the U.S. government whose mission is to "enforce the controlled substances laws and regulations of the United States."

food aid

money or food given to regions faced with malnutrition and starvation.


to give money to a program or project.


structures and facilities necessary for the functioning of a society, such as roads.


armed forces.


chemical substance that dulls or soothes the senses when it enters the bloodstream.

Operation Enduring Freedom

(2001-present) official name used by the U.S. government for the war in Afghanistan.


person who flees their home, usually due to natural disaster or political upheaval.


large-scale armed conflict.