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Afghanistan Aid Strategy Must Change Say Aid Groups

Source: VOA

International aid agencies are calling for restructuring the international community's strategy for development in Afghanistan. They want the focus to be on long-term poverty alleviation rather than political and military incentives.

Billions of dollars worth of aid has been pumped into Afghanistan, but international aid agencies say it still does not tackle the country's fundamental development issues.

A group of 23 British-based aid agencies, including Oxfam, Afghan Aid, and Action Aid along with Afghanistan-based aid groups have called for a radical change in aid strategy to Afghanistan.

Oxfam International project coordinator in Kabul, Ashley Jackson, says Western aid in Afghanistan is not keyed toward long-term development and poverty alleviation.

"The counter insurgency strategy being followed in Afghanistan is that a lot of aid is being delivered to insecure areas," Jackson said. "It is targeting hearts and minds of people rather than fitting into coherent development strategies and meeting basic needs. And that is not what development is, that is not what alleviates poverty."

Jackson contends the current aim appears to be to win over the local population with quick-fix projects against the insurgents. She also says that some projects, including setting up schools or health centers, are then poorly constructed, administered and monitored.

Melanie Brown communications officer for Afghan Aid, says much of the aid is not need based, but concentrated in areas of most Western-troop activity.

"Much of the aid is being given along perhaps political or military lines," Brown said. "If you look at spending in Helmand, in Kabul, compared to areas in the North there is a huge difference in the amount of money going to those areas."

According to the World Bank data, Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world. The South Asian nation has been caught in a cycle of war, insurgency and lawlessness for decades.

Oxfam's Ashley Jackson says the lack of cohesive direction of international aid is alienating the Afghan population.

"But there is a real growing frustration where a lot of Afghans feel like you know they are still living in poverty, there is still spreading insecurity," Jackson said. "And they know that billions of dollars of aid has gone to Afghanistan and they have not seen their lives improve the way they had expected them to."

Britain hosts an international conference Thursday to discuss the future direction and strategy for Afghanistan.

Afghan President Warns 'Military Solution Alone' Not Viable

Afghan President Hamid Karzai warned Tuesday that military action alone cannot stabilize his country.

Mr. Karzai spoke during a meeting of diplomats in Turkey, ahead of a major donor conference later this week in London.

The Afghan leader said reconciliation is needed, especially with Taliban members who are not affiliated with al-Qaida or other terrorist networks.  He also stressed that economic development will play a crucial role in reconciliation efforts.

Turkey hosted the talks with officials from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, China and Western nations.  The countries issued a statement supporting Mr. Karzai's proposal, saying it was "Afghan-led and Afghan-driven."

Also Tuesday, some aid agencies demanded a radical change in the way funds and supplies are distributed in Afghanistan.

The agencies, the British and Irish Agencies Afghanistan Group, also known as BAAG, said in a statement that lives are being lost because of "mismanaged or ineffective projects".

The group's director Abdul Basir said aid money should be funneled into Afghanistan through civilian agencies instead of the U.S. military.

Also, the International Committee of the Red Cross said Tuesday forces in the region must do more to distinguish civilians from actual combatants.

Meanwhile, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has responded to claims by a top U.S. official that he is "not an adequate strategic partner" and that the upcoming troop surge would make the country too dependent on American military forces.

The New York Times published the warning from a diplomatic cable originally sent by U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry to President Barack Obama.

Mr. Karzai said Afghanistan is a partner with the U.S. as long as the U.S. respects Afghanistan's sovereignty and decision making.  But he also warned Afghanistan would not be, in his words, a "submissive entity to a foreign power."

Some information for this report was provided by Reuters and AFP.



... Payvand News - 01/28/10 ... --

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