Troop transition in Afghanistan an opportunity to rethink aid, officials says

While alarming, the expected reduction of aid to Afghanistan in light of the planned withdrawal of foreign troops there might be for the better, a number of aid workers and officials said.

There are various concerns over the potential impact of several donors’ plans to reduce their aid to Afghanistan as they begin to pull out their troops. But Aidan O’Leary, head of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Afghanistan says a slowdown in aid might just be what Afghanistan needs.

“A lot of countries have focused efforts in areas where their troops have been operating, or where it has been easier to operate, instead of looking at it from a needs-based approach,” O’Leary told IRIN News. “Going forward … the people who are most vulnerable have to be at the forefront of the agenda.”

Much of the aid given to Afghanistan over the past years was spent on the southern part of the province and was driven by short-term military and political objectives, IRIN notes. Poor provinces in northern Afghanistan, which are relatively calmer and more stable, received a disproportionate amount of aid, it adds.

Aid workers hope assistance to Afghanistan will be less rushed, better focused and based on actual needs in the transition period following the planned troop withdrawal. It is necessary, they say, to give aid groups more time to consult village elders and engage the communities they are helping, among other measures to make their projects more sustainable.

Nonetheless, the planned reduction of aid to Afghanistan — particularly by the United States and the United Kingdom — is cause for concern. The World Bank, among other groups, has warned that the Afghan government is set to face serious budgetary issues if foreign aid for security and civilian expenditure is not maintained.

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    Ivy Mungcal

    As senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributes to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.