In Afghanistan, the United States sends more than just its troops. The country sends a tremendous amount of foreign aid. In fact, the US sends more than a billion dollars in aid to Afghanistan, which goes to help with schools, social programs, food, and almost everything in-between. Afghanistan has been war-torn, however, that state of war has impacted the distribution of aid to the country. In one sense, war has caused the United States to invest more money into the country. In another sense, war has been a net negative for the country, as it has made the distribution of aid more cumbersome.
During peace time, Afghanistan has hardly been a focus for many of the aid-granting nations around the world. In 2000, for instance, the United States sent only $5,000,000 to Afghanistan (Stevenson, 2013). That amount has obviously increased over time, as the United States now sends more than a billion dollars to the country (Tarnoff, 2010). The same has been true of a host of different donor nations and lending organizations, many of which have not seen Afghanistan as a focus area until the country was torn by war waged by a collection of countries against the Taliban. While it might seem like an increase in the amount of aid would be a positive thing, war has torn the country’s infrastructure apart, destroying many of the schools, government buildings, and roads that had previously been built. With that in mind, war has caused an uptick in the aggregate amount of aid, but it has also required that the aid go to re-building many of the things that have been torn down by war. Peace, on the other hand, allows the country the ability to work toward a solution without the worry of continual ruin, but aid organizations have not taken up the cause for Afghanistan in the absence of war.
War has brought about destruction in the country, especially in regard to its schools. With that in mind, one of the primary ways that the Afghan leadership has used its aid is in rebuilding the country to some extent. USAID gave the country $50 million, for instance, in hopes that the country would invest in young people (Goodhand & Sedra, 2010). The leadership in Afghanistan has done so, using some of the aid to train young people who were deprived of educational opportunities because of the war-faring in the nation. The country has also used aid to improve the quality of life for many of the people in the country. For instance, after war ripped the nation apart, the majority of people in the country did not have the benefit of electricity. The country’s leadership has used its foreign aid to provide that “luxury” to more people than ever before. Likewise, the United States military and its opposition have both been very hard on school buildings and roads.
The country’s leadership, alongside American military leaders, have poured the aid money into new schools (Taylor, 2010). These schools have been especially important for young women, who are able to attend classes for the first time in the country’s history. Likewise, there has been some effort to produce a country with the ability to compete technologically. The aid has been invested in trying to develop things like Internet in the country, though this has not exactly played out over the last few years. Still, the aid has not been invested in a way that has been sustainable, as many of the schools have been destroyed and many of the problems of the country continue despite the huge amounts of aid given by America and organizations like the World Bank.
The extension of aid has produced some results in the country, but it has not tangibly reduced the poverty situation in the country. More than half of the country’s children remain malnourished, and more than one-hundred of the schools that were built have been destroyed by insurgent forces. Even though the aid has been used to build schools, teachers are underpaid and mostly uneducated, and they are not given current books to teach with. War continues to rage on in the country, with the Taliban insurgents beaten back, but not defeated, despite an enormous American and international military presence in the country. People remain poor, and there is perhaps a health crisis in the country. Access to health facilities is better now than it has been in the past, mostly because it is easier for people to get to the hospital (Fishstein & Wilder, 2012). Still, those hospitals do not have the capacity to care for many of the nation’s sickest people, and this is a huge problem for those looking to effectively spend the foreign aid. Some have suggested that transportation is as good as it has ever been in the country, but there was little transportation available a decade ago. The argument, then, is that the country has had some infrastructure developed for the future, and if it could ever rid itself of the reality of war, it could potentially build on that infrastructure. If the purpose of the foreign aid was to immediately alleviate poverty, then it has largely failed, as the people in Afghanistan are still largely living in the same kind of society that they lived in before the American invasion.
American aid to Afghanistan totals more than a billion dollars, and while that money has been used on a number of worthy projects, the continual presence of war has made development difficult. Poverty is still a real problem, with people not having enough to eat throughout the country. Schools have been built, however, and roads are also being constructed. From a return on investment perspective, the country’s situation is quite poor. Given the amount of money that has been poured into “re-building” Afghanistan, the progress has been less than what many experts expected.
- Goodhand, J., & Sedra, M. (2010). Who owns the peace? Aid, reconstruction, and peacebuilding in Afghanistan. Disasters, 34(s1), S78-S102.
- Fishstein, P., & Wilder, A. (2012). Winning Hearts and Minds? Examining the Relationship between Aid and Security in Afghanistan. Feinstein International Center, Tufts University, Medford, MA.
- Stevenson, R. W. (2013). As Troops Leave, an Uncertain Future for US Aid in Afghanistan. The Caucus: The Politics and Government Blog of The Times. New York Times. Published February, 14.
- Tarnoff, C. (2010, June). Afghanistan: US foreign assistance. LIBRARY OF CONGRESS WASHINGTON DC CONGRESSIONAL RESEARCH SERVICE.
- Taylor, M. L. (2010). Civilian-Military Cooperation in Achieving Aid Effectiveness: Lessons From Recent Stabilization Contexts. MAKING DEVELOPMENT AID MORE EFFECTIVE, 48.