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Terrorism War Prompts US to Consider Refocusing Aid Programs - 2004-04-26

Development aid and humanitarian assistance have been key elements of U.S. foreign policy for decades. Now the U.S. Agency for International Development (AID) is taking on a more critical role in the war against terrorism.

AID Administrator Andrew Natsios says that combating terrorism relies on diplomacy, defense and development. He says as a result of the war on terrorism his agency is reconsidering the mandate and target of its aid programs.

Speaking to a group of policy analysts in Washington, Mr. Natsios listed five objectives of a refocused U.S. aid policy. "The first is to support transformational development," he said. "The second is strengthening fragile states and reconstructing failed states. The third is supporting U.S. geo-strategic interests. The fourth is addressing transnational problems. And finally, our traditional role is in providing humanitarian relief in crisis countries."

Mr. Natsios says aid programs should aim to help shore up political and economic reforms in what he calls fragile states and foster jobs for an increasing number of disgruntled young men who are recognized now as prime targets for terrorist recruiters.

"We have learned that countries become vulnerable and subject to terrorist subversion when there are high rates of unemployment, particularly among young men between 15 and 35," he said. "This has been confirmed time and time again in our experience with fragile and failing states."

Promoting U.S. efforts in development, Mr. Natsios says, can also bolster U.S. foreign policy goals by showing the positive side of U.S. power at a time when anti-American sentiment is spreading.

"Aid is a powerful leveraging instrument that can keep countries allied with U.S. foreign policy," he said. "It also helps them in their own battles against terrorism."

In fact, the budget for official U.S. aid programs has doubled since the 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.