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POLICY November 2008

BRIEF

Afghanistan
RECOMMENDATIONS
PROBLEM
To further the conditions needed for sustainable peace, instead of focusing on simply
Despite significant backstopping short-term military objectives, U.S. humanitarian and development
investments in assistance should be coordinated with the efforts of the Government of Afghanistan
Afghanistan’s
and other donors, and it should focus on alleviating poverty, building local capacity,
reconstruction
since 2001, the and reintegrating the 5 million returning refugees. Rather than relying on military
country remains and quasi-military actors to conduct relief and development efforts, the U.S. should
highly unstable use civilian experts to carry out such assistance and strictly separate this work from
as the lives and military-related efforts and actors such as the Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs).
livelihoods Afghans
are constantly
threatened due ACTIONS
to deteriorating
• Develop a coordinated assistance strategy with the Afghan government and
security, military
operations, the donors to ensure that assistance is poverty-focused, better balanced among stable
global food and conflict-affected and poppy-growing areas, and builds the capacity of Afghan
crisis, corruption, civil society;
persistent poverty, • Re-establish a clear and consistent separation between military and civilian-led
uncoordinated assistance efforts. The PRTs should return to their original focus on sectors where
international
they hold a comparative advantage, such as security sector reform and support for
actors and weak
governance. extending the Afghan government’s presence;
• Request the Government Accountability Office to conduct a comprehensive
review of U.S. assistance to Afghanistan to evaluate the effectiveness of funding
mechanisms and performance of all implementing actors in addressing develop-
ment objectives;
• Provide the leadership and resources to address the looming humanitarian crisis
through long-term measures coordinated with the relevant Afghan ministries; and
• Take all measures to prevent civilian harm and displacement during military opera-
tions. Immediately report any incidents to the Afghan government and humanitar-
ian actors to provide assistance.

1400 16th Street, NW
Suite 210
RESULTS
Washington, DC 20036
The recommended actions will shift the focus of U.S. assistance to efforts that ensure
202-667-8227
reform@interaction.org aid efficiently and effectively addresses the root causes of the poverty which domi-
nates so much of Afghanistan and serves as a catalyst for sustainable development.

www.interaction.org
BACKGROUND
AFGHANISTAN IS ONE OF THE LEAST DEVELOPED COUN- proach could contribute to further deterioration of security
tries in the world, with deep-seated poverty characterized and undermining of government legitimacy in previously
by limited economic infrastructure and high rates of illitera- stable parts of the country.
cy and maternal and child mortality. Decades of war and in- NGOs are under attack. Over the last six months, kill-
effective governance have destroyed most of Afghanistan’s ings, kidnappings and other violence against NGOs have
political and economic infrastructure. U.S.-based NGOs have increased drastically, threatening their ability to work in
been working in Afghanistan and with Afghan refugees for Afghanistan. The provision of humanitarian and develop-
decades, building relationships with communities, building ment assistance by U.S. military actors sometimes heighten
a deep understanding of their needs and preferences, and insecurity for NGOs, which rely on perceived impartiality, the
creating opportunities for development. clear distinction between combatants and non-combatants,
While international attention has settled on military con- and the acceptance by local communities to maintain se-
flict, poppy production and roadside explosions, the efforts curity in conflicted and insecure environments. All efforts,
of international NGOs and their Afghan colleagues, who have including adherence to the InterAction-DoD Guidelines and
undertaken longstanding, peaceful initiatives to rebuild Af- Afghanistan-specific civil-military guidelines, must be made
ghanistan, merit greater consideration and support. to distinguish between the activities of military actors and
The growing food crisis in Afghanistan, evidenced by ris- those of NGOs.
ing food prices and extreme food shortages, will exacerbate Military operations have led to displacement and a 20%
the situation. The urban poor, widows, orphans, the elderly, increase in civilian deaths over last year. The high civilian
the disabled and recently returned refugees are the most death toll threatens to undermine Afghans’ support for in-
vulnerable populations. Long-term measures to strengthen ternational military forces, as well as the Afghan government
food security, reduce the vulnerability to disasters and ex- and security forces. The U.S. and other military actors must
ternal shocks, and enhance the effectiveness of agricultural take all measures to enhance the protection of civilians, en-
assistance and land and water management should be de- sure accountability through immediate and independent
veloped immediately with the relevant Afghan ministries. assessments and consistently report incidents to the UN and
International assistance remains heavily imbalanced in humanitarian agencies to ensure that those affected receive
a number of ways. Geographically, assistance is concen- the appropriate assistance.
trated disproportionately on the capital, the most insecure
and poppy-growing areas of the country. As a result, more
peaceful regions are neglected even though they often
present the greatest opportunity for successful develop-
ment. Donors’ choice of aid implementers is also imbalanced
with much of the assistance going to the wrong actors, such
as the military and contractors which often have limited de-
velopment experience and knowledge of the local environ-
ment. The multitude of pooled funds has also contributed
to the inefficient disbursement of funds. A careful balance
must be struck in a multi-year assistance strategy which uses
a diversity of implementers and funding mechanisms to
support sustainable development throughout the country.
Quasi-development efforts and “hearts-and-minds” activi-
ties focused on security objectives have minimal, and often
negative, development impacts for most people. Assistance
activities carried out by international military actors, par-
ticularly the Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) often
end up fueling corruption and providing strength for local
power holders who too often do not have the long-term de-
velopment needs of the local people in mind. In fact, PRTs
sometimes actually contribute to insecurity, resentment and
hostility by failing to consult with the community and blur-
ring the lines between military and civilian activities. This ap-