Le Monde, March 26, 2008

Afghan Disenchantment

In fact, fully 40 percent of the money paid out returns to the donors by way of salaries paid to consultants, sub-contractors and expatriates.

Editorial (Translation: Truthout French language editor Leslie Thatcher)

Afghanistan should be a textbook case, a model, the very paradigm of the "reconstruction" of a failing state under the auspices of a mobilized international community. There were so many hopes and promises right after the 2001 fall of the Taliban regime which al-Qaeda had made its rear base!

Six years later, the official report is brutal: the Taliban are back in the southern and eastern Pashtun regions; NATO is exhausting its troops in endless battle; opium cultivation flourishes as never before; corruption rots right through the heart of the Afghan government.

The true nature of the US “war on terror” drama has been exposed today and we witness that they are killing thousands of our innocent people under the name of “fighting terrorists” while on the other hand they are busy in dealing with the barbaric fascist Taliban trying to gloss some of them as “moderates” in order to share power with them. These treacherous acts of demagogy have revealed it once again to our people and to the world that the US government and its allies were just pursuing their strategic, economic and political gains in Afghanistan and pushing our people to increasing destitution and disasters.
From RAWA statement ( http://www.rawa.org/events/mar8-2008_e.htm ), March 8, 2008

But there is another failure, or, in any event, a serious dysfunction, that illustrates the impasse of reconstruction in Afghanistan: the broken promises of international aid. The report just published by ACBAR, which combines close to one hundred non-governmental organizations working on the ground in Afghanistan, is damning. A big share of aid to Afghanistan is "wasted, ineffective and uncoordinated," this study concludes. It is imperative that the international community clean house and get back on track. Otherwise, its - already profoundly damaged - credibility with the Afghan population will not easily recover.

First question: why have these commitments not been honored? Twenty-five billion dollars of aid to Afghanistan was promised; in fact, only $15 billion has been paid out. The second incoherence: why is there such a massive disparity between military spending and aid to civilian reconstruction? Security operations against the resurgence of Islamist fighters are certainly amply necessary to stabilize the country, but nothing justifies the disproportion denounced in the ACBAR report: the Americans alone spend $100 million a day for the war, while total international aid for reconstruction comes to $7 million a day only. Finally, the last serious deficiency: total chaos. A third of the funds follow obscure channels, sucked up in the "black holes" of corruption. Furthermore, is it normal that part of this aid should be absorbed by gigantic operating costs? In fact, fully 40 percent of the money paid out returns to the donors by way of salaries paid to consultants, sub-contractors and expatriates.

It is urgent to rationalize this international aid to Afghanistan, for when the money arrives and is channeled into well-conceived projects, the progress on the ground is real. Not everything about the reconstruction is negative. There is nothing inescapable about the failure of Afghanistan - provided that the international community no longer leaves itself wide open to its adversaries, who employ scare tactics and gamble on that community's impotence.

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