Why Defense and Development Don't Mix in Afghanistan

A U.S. army soldier provides security during a humanitarian aid distribution in Logar province in Afghanistan. U.S. development policies have tarnished the impartial image of NGOs in the country, according to Politics Daily. Photo by: Nathaniel Allen / The U.S. Army / CC BY The U.S. ArmyCC BY

In Afghanistan, U.S. development policies have made aid workers targets of Taliban attacks, according to non-governmental organizations.

The U.S. Agency for International Development provides funding to NGOs in Afghanistan based on how their efforts “contribute to COIN goals,” Politics Daily reports. COIN stands for counterinsurgency, a strategy that coordinates U.S. military efforts with development and peacekeeping work to thwart insurgency in Afghanistan and Iraq.

USAID grants require aid groups to collaborate with troops on projects such as “battlefield cleanup,” where aid workers “clean up” post-conflict damage in communities, said Ann Richard, vice president of government relations at the International Rescue Committee.

“There are more attacks on aid workers now,” said Richard. “Security for NGOs has gone in the opposite direction.”

Such development policy has tarnished the apolitical, impartial image of NGOs in Afghanistan, Politics Daily notes.

“If there’s anger at the military, then often times the NGOs will have to pay for it,” said an aid worker, who helps administer medical programs, adding that the general assumption among Afghans is that aid organizations are working for the U.S. military, according to Politics Daily.

About the author

  • Ma. Rizza Leonzon

    As a former staff writer, Rizza focused mainly on business coverage, including key donors such as the Asian Development Bank and AusAID.