With a lagging U.S. economy, a presidential election and economic turmoil in Europe, it’s easy to forget an area of the world still receiving a boatload of American aid.
International donors are preparing to promise Afghanistan $16 billion over the next four years. This $4 billion per year in aid comes on top of a $4.1 billion per year commitment by NATO to Afghan security forces from 2015 to 2017.
The U.S. is donating $2.3 billion this year and planning to fork over $1 billion a year over the next decade, an unnamed official told The Associated Press.
International aid from civilian groups will not come without strings as corruption remains a problem in Afghanistan.
As the foreign aid pie grows and more money is pumped into the country, the incentive to misuse, divert and steal funds grows. A 2011 Senate Committee on Foreign Relations report notes that the World Bank estimates that 97 percent of Afghanistan’s GDP derives from spending related to the “international military and donor community presence.”
Money flowing into the fragile Afghan economy can lead to influence-buying to snag development contracts and resentment from locals who don’t see any aid money.
The international community sees Karzai’s government as a patronage network and views his government as having widespread corruption. Karzai has said he takes corruption seriously, but there have been few prosecutions of individuals accused of enriching themselves with public money, CBS News reports.
Karzai has appealed to the international community to do more to prevent rampant corruption.
“The way donor assistance is given to Afghanistan, the way it is disbursed inside Afghanistan, the projects selected for such an assistance and the manner of contracting and contractual mechanism, all of those are the issues that we have to address,” Karzai said. “On corruption, two hands must clap.”
That’s what the new aid agreement sets out to accomplish. To receive assistance Afghans will have to tell donors what they want funded through National Priority Programs set up by the government, and those programs must have ways to ensure they are put into place transparently.
“We’re working hard with our Afghan partners to address this problem here in Afghanistan, knowing that it’s much broader than Afghanistan by promoting greater transparency, the rule of law, good governance, working hard to prevent fraud, waste and abuse,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters.
Between 2002 and 2010, the U.S. gifted Afghanistan nearly $19 billion in foreign aid to develop the country and promote stability, spending about $320 million per month, according to the report. Afghanistan receives more U.S. foreign aid than any other country, including Iraq.
In total, Afghanistan has received $60 billion in foreign aid since 2002.
The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations report said that around 80 percent of aid in Afghanistan went to the “restive” southern and eastern regions, with only 20 percent going to the rest of the country. Most of the money was being spent to win “hearts and minds,” according to the report.
“Most of the funds in Afghanistan’s south and east are being used for short-term stabilization programs instead of longer term development projects, though that balance may now be changing,” the Senate report notes.
The report cautioned, “the unintended consequences of pumping large amounts of money into a war zone cannot be underestimated.”
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