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Germany

Slow Pace of German Afghanistan Aid Criticized

Bureaucracy is hampering and even stopping the flow of German aid to Afghanistan, according to Green politician Alexander Bonde. But the German development ministry have denied his claims.

A man works on a new building in Kabul

Afghanistan relies heavily on Germany for reconstruction aid

Bonde told the German news magazine Der Spiegel that of the 70 million euros ($103 million) that the Germany's Development Ministry (BMZ) allocated for rebuilding projects in Afghanistan in 2007, 20 million euros was never spent.

He said that the slow pace of the aid contradicts the government's claims that civilian reconstruction remains its top priority in Afghanistan.

It is a problem that could be set to continue this year. The ministry had only spent a third of its reconstruction budget in the first six months of 2008. Bonde blames German bureaucratic hurdles for the delay.

Ministry denies slowdown

An Afghan man works to repair a window of a war damaged building

Some feel reconstruction has been too slow

The Development Ministry denied Bonde's accusations, calling them "unjustifiable and false," according to the DPA news agency.

The ministry spokesman said that half of the money earmarked for Afghanistan is part of long-term authorizations. Germany's long-term commitments in Afghanistan are transferred over the course of several years because most of the programs take place over a three or seven-year duration, the ministry said.

Bonde said he wasn't satisfied with this answer. "My criticism is based on official numbers from the Foreign Ministry," he said. "As long as the BMZ doesn't provide other concrete numbers, the denial has no value," he said in a written response reported by the DPA news agency.

He called for a clarification from the government on what money has actually been spent.

Sensitive to criticism

New Afghan National Army recruits

Germany helps train Afghanistan's security forces

Germany's left-right coalition government has come under repeated criticism for putting military aid ahead of humanitarian help. Germany has about 3,500 troops taking part in a NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). German police officers are also involved in training Afghan security forces.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier visited Afghanistan in July and emphasized Germany's involvement new roads and schools. Civilian aid remained the focus of German help to Kabul, Steinmeier said.

Unpopular mission

Yet even as Germany's top politicians emphasize humanitarian aid, the government has been pushing for an increase in the number of peacekeeping troops.

Germany's participation in the ISAF mission is unpopular at home. But, the government has said that it needs more troops to improve security in Afghanistan, which is currently experiencing an upsurge in violence orchestrated by the Taliban. Berlin has proposed further increasing the number of troops to 4,500.

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