The International Crisis Group has released a scathing report on humanitarian and reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan, which has received $57 billion in aid since 2001 (a fraction of military costs).
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.
Under a heavily centralised political and public financial system, created under the international lead, Kabul has handled all development expenditures directly, without allocating sufficient funds to the provinces. While acknowledging the need for provincial authorities to contribute to the annual national budget planning, efforts to enhance their role in determining budget allocations have been slow. If greater government control over development aid is to increase the state’s capacity to meet public needs and development objectives, President Hamid Karzai’s government must take tangible steps to improve the flow of funds from Kabul to the provincial and district levels.