Aid and Conflict in Afghanistan

Aug. 18, 2011, 9:40 p.m.

The International Crisis Group published a report on Aid and Conflict in Afghanistan.  The report looks at the role of development and humanitarian assistance in contributing to a more secure and stable Afghanistan, or the failure ot do so.  The assistance provided failed to achieve the goals set out.  As the drawdown of military personnel and resources occurs a parallel course is likely to be seen on the donor and civilian side resulting in a decrease in funding and supervision on the ground.  These actions will have a negative impact on the sustainability and success of development projects and the stability of the Afghan government. A cause of concern is the centralization of aid flows, not only do donors bypass the Afghan government, which only receives 20% of international aid, but Kabul bypasses local provinces.  In order for stability to occur it is essential that steps are taken to decentralize the allocation of aid while addressing the danger of corruption and inefficiency.  Another concern is the tendency of donors to focus on short-term military objectives rather than ensuring that aid goes to reconstruction and development priorities of Afghan citizens.  Without acting on the concerns addressed in the paper, the stability of Afghanistan will deteriorate and conditions will worsen.

After a decade of major security, development and humanitarian assistance, the international community has failed to achieve a politically stable and economically viable Afghanistan. Despite 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. As the insurgency spreads to areas regarded as relatively safe till now, and policymakers in Washington and other Western capitals seek a way out of an unpopular war, the international community still lacks a coherent policy to strengthen the state ahead of the withdrawal of most foreign forces by December 2014. The impact of international assistance will remain limited unless donors, particularly the largest, the U.S., stop subordinating programming to counter-insurgency objectives, devise better mechanisms to monitor implementation, adequately address corruption and wastage of aid funds, and ensure that recipient communities identify needs and shape assistance policies.

Poor planning and oversight have affected projects’ effectiveness and sustainability, with local authorities lacking the means to keep projects running, layers of subcontractors reducing the amounts that reach the ground and aid delivery further undermined by corruption in Kabul and bribes paid to insurgent groups to ensure security for development projects.

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