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Money as Weapon: Recipe for Disaster in Afghanistan

May 18, 2011

By Fiorenzo Conte

Chrisotpher de Bellaigue writes about the politics of aid in Afghanistan. His argument puts forth two recurrent problems, which emerge in post-war contexts.

Firstly, development and defense do not go together and if you try to pursue them at the same time, you end up achieving neither of them.

There is a fine line between providing humanitarian assistance ( a road leading to market, say) and establishing military infrastructure ( a road leading to a US base), and the coalition has made the distinction harder to spot. The Americans and their allies are trying to fight a war and build a country at the same time, and they find it convenient to use the same forms of organization for both. Much aid has been coordinated  through military-directed Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRTs), which operate in heavily fortified compounds around the country. The insurgents regard any activities associated with PRTs as fair game, and anyone involved with them as part of the occupying force. This is the logic behind the kidnapping and murder of aid workers (..).

Secondly, an excessive demand to deliver services posed on a weak administrative system is likely to backfire and to cause the state capability to weaken.

More aid money is now being channeled through Karzai’s government after people complained that donors were bypassing the state and replicating its functions, but the government is unable to absorb such enormous sums. In 2009, according to Karolina Olofsson of Integrity Watch Afghanistan, an NGO, the Ministry of Justice in Kabul succeeded in spending just 30 per cent of the money that had been allocated to it. Oversight is minimal. (..) But this has not discouraged donors, whose approach, Olofsson says, is simply to “throw the aid and see who catches it”.

These problems are widely known by the experts in the sector. Yet, they continue to be made. Why?

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Jessica permalink
    May 19, 2011 7:41 am

    The reason why they continue to give aid is because of political reasons mainly, but also if aid agencies don’t give away money lots of people will lose their jobs and it is clear that they would rather have bad development intiatives, in the name of development, than to actually develop and rebuild these economies, risking their very own livelihoods.

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