Taliban insurgency continues as does Afghanistan’s dependence on foreign aid. At a recent conference in Brussels, international donors — comprising 70 countries — pledged $15.2 billion to the war-wracked nation for the next four years. NATO members are maintaining troop numbers in Afghanistan and have vowed to fund the Afghan forces with $5 billion annually until 2020. The US has spent around $68 billion since 2002 to help Afghanistan’s military to fight the terrorists.
The pertinent question is: Is all this money being utilized properly? Sadly, No. Recently, there was a report which revealed that much of it has been wasted on “ghost” soldiers and police, who exist only on paper. Large-scale endemic
corruption can be singled out as the biggest ill plaguing the country where the raging war has killed thousands and displaced millions.
While making donations for development support, there is no watchdog which can ensure that the money goes where it is needed. As long as there is an absence of a mechanism that can implement effective transparency in the dealings, Afghans will never be able to get out of instability and look forward to a assuring future.
Since 2001, Afghanistan has seen a flood of monetary as well as military
assistance flowing in. However, the ground situation in the country has not changed much. The lives of local people have not improved. They still live in fear of the Taliban; have to flee their homes when there is an offensive and seek shelter in the most uninhabitable places. The aid hasn’t brought actual relief to the suffering masses. The war has not only deprived the people of their livelihoods, but their children of education too. A whole generation has been left
uneducated and this could have a negative social fallout in the long run.
The government will have to carry out fundamental reforms to ensure that the funding reaches the right places and delivers its purpose. If the money gets
siphoned off on “ghost” soldiers, it is a matter of grave concern. Such an unholy practice demoralizes the honest lot in the profession and could also deal a blow to their integrity. Those behind the racket need to be punished and a precedent set for others.
The $15.2-billion pledged by the donors at the recent Brussels meet is a huge amount. But it has to translate into real development. To utilize the donation, accountability has to be fixed with local bodies. The NGOs and other civil groups have been strengthened so that they can act like watchdogs and monitor actions of those who are given the responsibility of disbursing the funds. The money must be used on schools and hospitals. It should be used on infrastructure and development projects that can generate jobs for the local population.
Afghanistan shouldn’t fall into the trap of perpetual reliance on foreign aid. The funds have to invested in such a way that it builds a long-term asset for the country. Local empowerment by promoting domestic industries holds the key to self-dependence. Youth and women participation in the country’s development schemes would be crucial. Participatory approach will make all the difference. The country will become secure when its people wage a campaign to be self-reliant.