US lawmakers urge civilian asssitance to Afghanistan
CHICAGO (PAN): A report released Wednesday by a key US Senate committee urges US President Barack Obama to authorize a multi-year civilian assistance strategy for Afghanistan, with a focus on sustainability.
With the upcoming transition to an Afghan security lead in 2014, US civilians will absorb responsibilities from the military as the troop drawdown begins. There is a critical planning window for ensuring a successful transition, said the report released by Senator John Kerry, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
“We’re using assistance to build the capacity of Afghan institutions and their economy which is critical to our national security objectives in the region. There are real success stories from our assistance efforts,” Kerry said.
“But the administration acknowledges that serious challenges remain and that’s why we’ve conducted a thorough review of civilian aid investment in Afghanistan,” he said.
According to the report, the Obama administration and Congress should consider working together on a multi-year authorization that includes: (a) a clearly defined assistance strategy; (b) the tools, instruments, and authority required for a successful development approach; (c) a plan as to how U.S. funding will leverage and complement Afghan domestic policies, private sector financing, and multilateral efforts – including the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, and Islamic Development Bank (d) the civilian resources needed for a successful military drawdown and transition; (e) the steps needed to ensure accountability, oversight, and effectiveness; and (f) metrics that measure performance and capture outcomes.
The strategy should also establish benchmarks for the Afghan government to fulfill its international commitments, outline goals for improving donor coordination, and include specific annual funding levels. This process would clarify the US assistance strategy, offer greater predictability on future funding levels, and provide Congress with robust tools for oversight, it said.
“We must challenge the assumption that our stabilization programs in their current form necessarily contribute to stability. The administration should continue to assess the impact of our stabilization programs in Afghanistan and reallocate funds, as necessary,” it said.
“We should follow a simple rule: Donors should not implement projects if Afghans cannot sustain them. Development in Afghanistan will only succeed if Afghans are legitimate partners and there is a path toward sustainability,” the report said.
Noting that the Afghan government must have sufficient technical capability and funding to cover operation and maintenance costs after a project is completed, the report said a sustainability strategy would consolidate US programs, increase on-budget aid, streamline rules and controls, and pursue a limited number of high-impact programs that do not require complex procurement or infrastructure.
“We should also focus on raising domestic revenue, reducing aid dependency, and developing partnerships with the private sector to create jobs,” the report said.
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