Afghanistan after the burst of economic bubble
Afghanistan, a landlocked country located in Central Asia, has long been in the throes of poverty and economic crisis. However, the war-ruined nation is endowed with bountiful natural resources. Recent studies by international institutions found the country as the richest Asian nation with mineral resources worth trillions of dollars.
After the 9/11 attacks in the United States of America, destroying the World Trade Center (WTO) and claiming the lives of almost 3,000 American citizens, the Bush administration decided to invade Afghanistan and dismantle the sanctuaries of Al Qaeda and Taliban, who were blamed for plotting the deadly assaults.
Subsequently, the US cobbled together an anti- terrorism coalition involving NATO and non-NATO countries. The Northern Alliance of Afghanistan was a vital part of that coalition. After negotiations with Pakistan’s army-run establishment in September 2001 which placed its air, sea and soil at US disposal, the US launched a blitz on Al Qaeda and Taliban bases across Afghanistan.
As a result of a relentless bombing campaign, America brought down the Islamic Emirate of Taliban and paved the way for infantry forces. Some leaders of Taliban and Al Qaeda were killed and others detained by coalition forces. Later, the United Nations and international the community structured an interim administration. While all parties except Taliban were called to the Bonn Conference, chaired by the UN.
As a result, the Hamid Karzai-led interim government was formed. After the formation of the six months administration, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) was mandated to provide security for Kabul. Right after forming the interim administration, the US and more than 45 other countries deployed thousands of troops to Afghanistan to fight Taliban and Al Qaeda militants. Hundreds of military bases were opened throughout Afghanistan.
During the interim administration, followed by a transitional set-up, almost all developing countries of the world came together to rebuild the war torn-country. Thousands of foreign NGOs opened their offices here to launch efforts for the well-being of Afghanistan. A string of fundraising conferences were hosted by different donors around the world. During the past 14 years, billions of dollars were donated to the reconstruction of Afghanistan.
The international community launched thousands of reconstruction projects across the country, such as roads, bridges, culverts, intakes, micro hydropower dams, canals, schools, clinics and so on. As a result of those projects, the Afghans have heaved a sigh of relief,thankingWestern taxpayers for their humanitarian assistance. Implementation of the welfare projects changed the lives of the people who had been caught in many problems during the past three decades.
Additionally, the US also financed military projects worth billions of dollar for Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) all over the country. The military projects were handled by the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), United States Air Force Center For Engineering and Environment (AFCEE) and Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs).We can safely assume that with the implementation of those army projects, the Afghan National Security Forces have acquired modern facilities like the newly-built Headquarters of Ministry Of Defence (MOD).
The international military deployment generated vast employment opportunities for local nationals (LNs), third country nationals (TCNs) and American expatriates. Even though Afghanistan was transformed into an open market for all regional and international companies to operate, the Afghan economy started a rapid growth and its per capita income hit an all-time high of $417.06 in 2012.
The wide presence of US and international troops during the past 14 years had a positive impact on the Afghan economy, as thousands of locals worked with them as interpreters, cultural advisors, contractors, guards and labourers at their operational bases throughout the country.They received good amounts of money in return for their services; many others employed by NGOsalso earned a lot. The Afghan allies working for US mission were investing in the private sector of Afghanistan such as building houses, markets, hotels, townships, etc.
In the meantime the Afghans living oversea started to invest in the private sector as well. But after President Obama’s decision to pull out US troops from Afghanistan and hand over security responsibilities to the ANSF, America’s European allies took similar steps and withdrew their troops.
This drawdown of international troops and recent insecurity had a harmful effect on the Afghanistan’s economic growth as plenty of Afghans working for international troops lost their jobs. Construction activities on large projects were de-scoped, foreign companies left, businessmen stopped Investment and the afghani lost much of its value against major foreign currencies.
Afghanistan’s achievements during Karzai’s tenure were not good enough, looking at the level of cooperation from the US and the global fraternity. Afghanistan remained a consumer due to mismanagement and embezzlement of international aids. No industrial units were established to generate permanent employment opportunities for the people, no large-scale infrastructures projects were initiated to meet the primary needs of citizens.
For instance, electricity is still being imported from neighbouring countries. Despite dollops of aid, the Afghans continue suffering from unemployment and poverty. This lack of employment for youngsters and professionals pushes citizens out of the country through illegal routes or joining militant groups.
The Karzai-led government concentrated on short-term development and economic projects instead of creating large income initiatives. The Afghans are extremely concerned about the current economic instability, blaming the Karzai administration for losing golden chances during the past decade. Many believe the opportunities were lost to improper management and graft.
The national unity government (NUG) is up against odds, with people complaining about the deplorable state of the economy. Government leaders have failed during the last nine months to speed up the pulley of the economy as promised during the election campaign. In an effort to silence detractors, Chief Executive Officer Dr. Abdullah tied the economic slowdown to dwindling international aid.
Economic analysts underline extensive administrative reforms, transparency and accountability as a way out of the gloomy fiscal condition. International donors insist on solid steps against corruption and fraud for continued assistance to the impoverished country. At the same time, the government must call transparent bids for exploiting Afghanistan’s natural resources to create employment opportunities and a sustainable income source.
Hazar Jawab is Lead Quality Assurance Engineer with the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE)
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