Saturday, May 26, 2007

The forgotten clusterfuck

Matt Waldman, Oxfam's head of policy for Afghanistan, writes in the Guardian that the American occupation of Afghanistan is in danger or running off a cliff.

America is bankrolling Afghanistan. It is responsible for more than half of all aid to the country (aid that accounts for about a third of GDP), and it plans to provide $10.6bn in the next two years. But as in Iraq, a vast proportion of aid is wasted. Political pressure in donor countries for rapid results has led to projects that are unsuitable and unsustainable. Most aid money goes to programmes in the opium-intensive, insecure provinces in the south. To neglect secure provinces is to invite the insurgency to spread.

Close to half of US development assistance goes to the five biggest US contractors in the country. Too much money is lost to high salaries and living costs, non-Afghan resources and corporate profits. The overall cost of one expatriate consultant is about half a million dollars a year. International contractors are indispensable, but there needs to be rigorous scrutiny, with targets for increased use of Afghan resources. An aid ombudsman could monitor complaints and make recommendations.

There is rising anger about civilian casualties, particularly at the hands of US units outside Nato command - a recent assault in western Afghanistan left 50 civilians dead, and in the past six weeks coalition forces have killed up to 100 civilians, compared with about 230 for the whole of 2006. If international forces lose the support of the people, militants and insecurity will spread.

A third of Afghans think democracy is incompatible with Islamic values, and many resent the massive foreign presence. If rapid steps are not taken to improve the delivery of aid and to control the excessive use of force, there could be devastating consequences. At the same time, action is required at regional level to crack down on insurgents, control narcotics, manage refugees and promote trade and investment. |Guardian| (emphasis added)

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