Two top former US military commanders warned against slashing US foreign aid

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WASHINGTON, June 12 (APP): As the Trump administration seeks cut in US foreign aid to countries in its next budget, two top former military generals dubbed it the ‘wrong decision’ and warned that slashing USAID funds would increase the risk to Americans and US troops.
‘Strategic development assistance is not charity; it is an essential, modern tool or U.S. national security,’ said Admiral (Ret.) Michael Mullen, who served as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 2007-2011, and General (Ret.) James Jones, who was the commandant of the Marine Corps and also served as Supreme Allied Commander, Europe from 2003-2006.
In an article they wrote for the online magazine ‘Politico’ published on Monday, the two elite military commanders urged the Congress to reject this ‘dangerous path’. Citing their 15 years of experience in wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, in the Middle East, and now in Africa, they said that development aid was critical to America’s national security.
‘Foreign assistance should be respected and budgeted as an investment in the enhancement of stability in the world’s most vulnerable places, not as a no-strings-attached giveaway to poorer nations’,they wrote.
‘This is exactly the wrong decision at a time when development efforts in the world’s poorest and most fragile countries are needed more than ever,they said adding that severe cuts to USAID would only increase the risk to Americans and to our brave military members.
For the year 2018, President Trump has proposed a combined budget of $25.6 billion for both the State Department and the US Agency for International Development (USAID), an estimated 28 percent cut from the current spending of about $50 billion on foreign assistance program for fiscal 2017.
Given their military experience, Admiral Mullen and General Jones said that the United States cannot solve every foreign crisis through military means and that “in the 21 century, weapons and warfighters alone are insufficient to keep America secure.
The Commander argued that American interests were undermined in regions where conditions foster radicalism, produce refugees, spark insurgency, and provide safe havens for terrorists, criminal gangs, and human trafficking with global reach.
They were of the opinion that fighting extremist groups after they have emerged and gained ground is costlier that spending money to prevent such groups from forming in the first place. ‘Research suggests that investing in prevention is, on average, 60 times less costly than war and post-conflict reconstruction costs’.
The military commanders further stated in the article that terrorist groups such as al Qaeda, al Shabaab and Boko Haram and ISIS have taken roots in highly fragile regions” and people who lack meaningful opportunities to improve their lives or provide for their families become prone to tolerate, if not actively support, extremist groups that challenge government authority or assume the government’s role as social-service provider.
‘To combat these groups and prevent such areas from serving as fertile recruiting grounds, training areas, and transit routes for violent extremism, the United States and its allies should become much more proactive in helping address underlying conditions that, left unchecked, invite and foment instability’,the commanders maintained.
Supporting a robust development budget to protect US national security objectives, Admiral Mullen and Gen. Jones said they would be joining 14 other former four-star generals and admirals in submitting a testimony to Congress that military power alone cannot prevent radicalization, nor can it, by itself, prevent despair from turning to anger and increasing outburst of violence and instability.
Urging Congress to make America safer by not approving the cuts, the top former military commanders warned that cutting the International Affairs budget would hurt “our country’s ability to stop new conflicts from forming, and will place our interests, values, and the lives of our men and women in uniform at risk.