There is intense focus now on how to reach a peace agreement in Afghanistan, but little on how to sustain peace, particularly in an area that bores so many policymakers and pundits: economics. Yet peace with inadequate economic support risks adding demobilized soldiers and Taliban to the large numbers of unemployed Afghans. Massive social resentment easily can lead to a return to violence with space for terrorist movements such as al Qaeda and ISIS (more than 20 in all), to strengthen their foothold.
Avoiding this danger requires international support and private investment. Both demand Afghan reform. And the international community needs to think about all three- aid, investment and reform - now.
Afghanistan does have a basis for prospering someday, but developing abundant natural resource deposits (copper, iron, gold and rare earth minerals), improving the Silk Road trade routes (rail, road, air and pipelines), expanding power generation, creating agricultural infrastructure, stimulating construction projects, and broadening the services sector will require large sums of money through aid and new private-sector investment.
In the peaceful mid-1970s, Afghanistan matched Pakistan and India in per capita income. Since then, a chaotic Afghanistan has badly lagged in growth. To achieve a more rapid pace of economic expansion, any "new" Afghanistan must earn the public's confidence anew.
Today's growth is simply inadequate to fund solutions to the nation's overall challenges, especially security. The World Bank reports, "Afghanistan continues to face major economic headwinds, with growth slowing to an estimated 1.8 percent in 2018. Only modest improvement in economic growth is...