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Europe

Western Aid Failing to Reach Afghanistan, Report Says

Aid agencies said that up to $10 billion (6.5 billion euros), or 40 percent, of promised aid to Afghanistan has not been delivered by the West. Germany and the EU, however, questioned the organizations' calculations.

Residents of Kama Ado, Afghanistan, survey the damage to a house in December 2001, after a US bombing raid

Afghanistan has been ravaged by war for years

Aid agencies said that up to $10 billion (6.5 billion euros), or 40 percent, of promised aid to Afghanistan has not been delivered by the West, and what does arrive bypasses the Afghan government.

Western countries have failed to carry through on their pledges of aid to Afghanistan, according to a report by the Agency Coordinating Body For Afghan Relief (ACBAR). The umbrella group of non-governmental organizations which work in Afghanistan said the international community had pledged $25 billion to Afghanistan since 2001, when the extremist Taliban government was toppled, but that up to $10 billion had not reached the country.

The US government -- the biggest international donor to Afghanistan -- "has one of the biggest shortfalls," providing only half of the $10.4 billion dollars of pledged money until 2008, the report said.

An Afghan farmer holding a poppy bud in his hand Afghanistan

Afghanistan is the biggest producer of poppy-derived opium for heroin

The European Commission and Germany had delivered less than two-thirds of their respective $1.7 billion and $1.2 billion in commitments, ACBAR said.

But a spokesperson for the German Development Ministry disputed that statement, saying that his country had paid up more than 90 percent of the money it had pledged between 2001 and 2006.

The European Commission also rejected the allegations.

"We are delivering - there is no delay, no backlog, no shortfall or lagging behind," a spokeswoman for the European Commission's external-affairs chief in Brussels said.

Exaggerated costs

The report said the World Bank had distributed just over half of its promised funds.

Furthermore, "just $15 billion in aid has so far been spent, of which it is estimated a staggering 40 percent has returned to donor countries in corporate profits and consultant salaries … vastly pushing up expenditures," the report said.

"For example, a road between the center of Kabul and the international airport cost the United States more than $2.3 million per kilometer, at least four times the average cost of building a road in Afghanistan."

Many of the full-time expatriate consultants working for private companies in Afghanistan receive $250,000 to $500,000 a year, including salary, allowances and other costs, the report said.

A "fraction" spent on aid

The report, entitled "Falling Short," was written by the aid group Oxfam for ACBAR. ACBAR is made up of 94 agencies, including Oxfam, Christian Aid, CARE, Islamic Relief and Save the Children.

The group said that foreign money spent on aid, development and reconstruction is now just "a fraction" of military expenditures.

An Afghan man working on a new building

Aid for development just a "fraction" of military expenditure

The US military alone spends some $100 million a day in fighting insurgents in Afghanistan, but average spending on aid by all donors since 2001 has amounted to only $7 million daily.

"Given the links between development and security, the effectiveness of aid also has a major impact on peace and stability," ACBAR said. "Yet thus far aid has been insufficient and in many cases wasteful and ineffective."

In addition, Afghanistan received just $57 per capita in aid in the two years after international intervention in 2001, compared to $679 a head in Bosnia and $233 in East Timor, ACBAR said.

Inefficiency and corruption are problematic

Some of the shortfalls, however, could be attributed to "challenging operating conditions, high levels of corruption and weak absorption capacities," ACBAR noted.

The group said this demonstrated the need for donors to solve such problems, adding that the weaknesses could be the reason that about two-thirds of foreign assistance bypassed the Afghan government -- undermining attempts to build effective state institutions.

World Bank country manager Mariam Sherman told AFP news agency that its disbursal rate -- estimated to be about 50 percent -- was "actually very good." But she conceded that while the World Bank channeled all its funds through the government budget, it was a problem that so much of it bypassed the administration.

German soldiers in Afghanistan

Germany has more than 3,000 soldiers in Afghanistan

"To build a state and be accountable to its people, the government needs to have a say in resource allocation," Sherman told AFP.

Extreme poverty prevails

ACBAR stressed that despite the formation of the Western-backed Afghan government six years ago, the country still suffers from extreme poverty. Just 20 percent of the population has access to potable water; only 5 percent has electricity.

The group also drew attention to recent reports from the southern province of Ghazni which said that residents in remote villages were eating grass to quell their hunger.

ACBAR called on the international community to increase aid and ensure that it makes a lasting effect for the poorest Afghans.

"Aid must address Afghan needs, build local capacities and help Afghans help themselves," said Matt Waldman, Afghanistan policy adviser at Oxfam and the report's author.

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