Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Wednesday, June 20th, 2018

Concerns about Sustainability of Development in Afghanistan

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Concerns about Sustainability of Development in Afghanistan

Afghanistan remains one of the poorest countries in the world. It relies on foreign aid. The brutal regime of Taliban had led Afghanistan into isolation, which led to back breaking poverty in the country. Over the last ten years since the fall of Taliban regime in late 2001, Afghanistan has received a great deal of aid and assistance provided by international community. But unfortunately the effectiveness of international aid remains open to question. The predomination approach to aid to Afghanistan was instrumentalization of assistance and aid provided to the country has been used as an instrument to persuade the insurgents not to hit the government and international forces operating in the country, which has not hit the target and has had transient and short-term effects. The effective approach to aid could be model-building, which has never been followed by the aid agencies and international donors in Afghanistan. Afghan people do not see tangible changes in their lives.

On June 07, the U.S. President Barack Obama in a joint White House press conference with the visiting German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, said,"In Afghanistan, where we've broken the Taliban's momentum, trained Afghan forces, and are now preparing to turn a corner in our efforts, we're scheduled to begin the transition to Afghan led." Merkel said, "The commitment we take in Afghanistan shows that we're very close. We're very grateful for the close cooperation in the north of Afghanistan; that has turned out excellently. We share the opinion that in Afghanistan we wish to approach the matters in the sense of an integrated security approach, a network security approach. It was said we want to build up not only the military side of it, but the civil side of it. We wish to go in together, out together. Afghanistan will need our support, however, in the long run. So we will not abandon them."

Over the past weeks, the militants have increased their terrorist attacks across the country. They have been targeting the high-ranking anti-Taliban figures and security officials. Afghan government has not been able to establish and expand its writ in several parts of the country. Couple of weeks ago, head of Bamyan provincial council, Mohammad JawadZahak, was kidnapped in Parwan province and three days later, his dead body was found in the area. It happened just a week after the killing of General Dawood Dawood, the northern police zone chief, and Takhar's provincial police chief. It shows that the government does not have effective presence in many parts of the country, let alone in the provinces where the militants have been able to turn them into a war theater. It also shows that both development and military sides have not been able to meet the expectations of Afghan people whose hope was rekindled with the oust of Taliban in 2001.

According to findings of the U.S. congressional report, roughly 80 percent of U.S. Agency for International Development funds allocated in Afghanistan's south and east — the traditional heartland of the Taliban and other insurgents — were being used for short-term stabilization programs instead of long-term development projects. It says, "The evidence that stabilization programs promote stability in Afghanistan is limited. Some research suggests the opposite." It also expresses concerns about the sustainability of the development in Afghanistan. The report is said to be the result of a two-year study by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's Democratic majority. It urges the U.S. administration to make more effective use of the roughly $320 million a month in foreign aid it spends in Afghanistan, with a focus on sustainability. Over the past years, it was believed that people join the terrorists out of poverty.

Aid was unfairly distributed based on this assumption. Bulk of the international money goes to insecure areas at the cost of peaceful and secure areas while people in peaceful regions are poorer than those in the so-called battlefields. That is what Fareed Zakria wrote to CNN that "poverty does not breed extremism." Though the report he says is about Pakistan, it could be generalized in the case of Afghanistan as well. As such, he wrote, "…Well, that's what a new serious academic study seems to prove. It's a robust survey by four academics from Princeton, Georgetown and the University of Pennsylvania that conducted extensive field research in Pakistan, interviewing 6,000 people across a broad spectrum of income groups and geography. Their findings could challenge the way we approach fighting terror, not just in Pakistan but around the world."He continues, "Second, contrary to conventional wisdom, poor Pakistanis dislike militant groups more than the middle classes.Third, the people who hate militants the most are the urban poor, probably because more than any other group they're the ones who are affected by terror attacks - bombs in subways or cafes or whatever. It's an interesting conclusion. The people we've long considered the likeliest candidates for extremism are actually the ones most against it."

So while the approach taken towards the aid to Afghanistan has been ineffective, it is important that international community make sure that Afghanistan is not plunged into another chaotic situation after they begin to withdraw their forces from the country as slated for the next month. The U.S. congressional report warns, "Afghanistan could suffer a severe economic depression when foreign troops leave in 2014 unless the proper planning begins now."

Unfortunately, Afghan government and its institutions are yet to demonstrate the capacity to spend their budget effectively and completely. It shows that capacity-building programs have not been sufficient to help Afghan institutions stand on their feet. Due to poor capacity of these agencies, international donors have mainly relied on contractors without effective oversight. That is what the report says that "Our aid projects need to focus more on sustainability so that Afghans can absorb our programs when donor funds recede."

In the meanwhile, international community must push Afghan government to root out corruption. Unfortunately, the widespread corruption in government agencies has led to widening gap between the government and Afghan people. Rampancy of administrative corruption has always been a hot issue in the country. But the government has tried to deceive people by setting up commission after commission. Elimination of corruption could lead to enhancing legitimacy of the government.

Sher Alam Saqib is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at outlookafghanistan@gmail.com

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