In the most perilous reaches of Afghanistan where Taliban bandits roam, reporter Gregory Warner explores how an international aid program is helping to restore and develop the most rural and dilapidated areas of the war-torn country. So why is the United States slashing the program’s funding?
Warner’s article in the Washington Monthly describes how an internationally supported development initiative called the National Solidarity Program has helped Afghanistan rebuild and develop in a variety of ways, such as helping to construct a hydropower plant in the village of Dadi Khel. What the development initiative does is provide international funding to the Afghanistan government, which is responsible for managing the funds. Warner contrasts this approach to the United States Agency for International Development, which is providing the funds for a new highway project, but is being hampered because of insurgent threats.
Warner describes a situation in which the U.S. is contributing a relatively small amount to the NSP:
Washington’s failure to support the NSP is also emblematic of its top-down approach to Afghanistan’s reconstruction in general. Since 2002, the United States has given just 6.3 percent of its aid money through the Afghan government. Meanwhile, most of the international community is moving in the opposite direction. At a January 2006 meeting in London, representatives from the United Nations, major donor nations, and the Afghan government met to develop a new framework for reconstruction, known as the Afghanistan Compact. One of the principles of the agreement was that donor nations would give more generously to accounts over which the Afghan government has discretion, such as the trust fund that covers about a third of the National Solidarity Program’s budget. The next year, most major donors’ annual pledges to this fund rose significantly: Canada’s contribution jumped from $59 million in 2006 to $121 million in 2007; Germany’s went from $20 million to $67 million. The contribution from the United Kingdom, already a firm supporter of the program, rose from $128 million to $131 million. However, the annual U.S. contribution to the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund fell, going from $74 million in 2006 to $50 million in 2007. Even as the Bush administration has increased overall funding for Afghanistan this year, it has resisted efforts to relinquish more control of the budget to the Afghan people themselves.