Donors renege on aid promises

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The United States has not delivered US$5 billion worth of aid it has pledged to help rebuild Afghanistan, half of a US$10 billion shortfall from pledges made by the international community, a report released today found.

The report from ACBAR, an alliance of 94 international aid agencies working in Afghanistan, said the prospects for peace in Afghanistan are being undermined because Western countries are failing to deliver on aid promises.

Since 2001, the international community has pledged US$25 billion in aid but has delivered only US$15 billion, said ACBAR, the Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief.

"The reconstruction of Afghanistan requires a sustained and substantial commitment of aid, but donors have failed to meet their aid pledges to Afghanistan. Too much aid from rich countries is wasted, ineffective or uncoordinated," said the report's author, Matt Waldman, Afghanistan policy adviser at Oxfam.

"Given the slow pace of progress in Afghanistan, and the links between poverty and conflict, the international community must urgently get its act together." The report said an estimated 40 percent of money spent on aid projects are returned to donor countries through high expat salaries that push up expenditures. A U.S.-funded road leading to the Kabul airport was built for US$3.7 million per mile, four times the average cost of most roads in the country, the report said.

A spokesman for the US Embassy in Kabul couldn't be reached after business hours Monday.

The report also criticized the large differences being spent on aid project and military operations.

"While the US military is currently spending US$100 million a day in Afghanistan, aid spent by all donors since 2001 is on average less than a tenth of that — just US$7 million a day," Waldman wrote. "This is a shortsighted policy."

About 90 percent of all public spending in Afghanistan comes from international aid, the report said.

Previous reports by aid groups have found that the international community is spending far less aid money in Afghanistan per capita — and putting far fewer soldiers on the ground — than it has in previous conflicts.