Britain has subjugated its multibillion-pound aid packages to US military objectives and become mired in corruption and crime, report says
Despite spending nearly £3.5billion ($4.23billion) in aid over two decades to build a functioning state in Afghanistan, Britain has largely fallen short of its targets , a government watchdog said in a damning report. A major misstep was to prioritize shifting US military objectives over stabilization efforts.
The review was released by the Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) on Thursday. He gave the Afghan effort the second-worst amber-red score in his four-rating system, based on “unrealistic goals, flawed approaches and limited evidence of progress towards its strategic goals.” The document covered the period from 2014 to the fall of Kabul to the Taliban in August 2021.
The watchdog pointed to the dominant role played by the United States in Afghanistan and the choice of the United Kingdom to put transatlantic relations before the apprehensions it had with regard to Washington’s policy.
“The United States decided at an early stage to exclude the Taliban from the political process and seek a military victory over them instead,” ICAI wrote. “As a result, the state-building project did not rely on broad political agreement to make it legitimate among Afghan elites and the Afghan public, whose support it depended on.”
Among other things, the UK has pledged to co-fund the Afghan National Police (ANP). Widespread embezzlement and other forms of corruption have been reported, along with police brutality, arbitrary detention, torture and extrajudicial executions by the PNA, the report notes. Funding the force may have provided some protection against Taliban incursions, but “the ANP has not developed a substantial civilian police role.”
“We found evidence of a number of attempts at higher levels to end support, which were reversed at the highest levels of the UK government,” said the ICAI.
The UK has made positive changes by improving access to healthcare, promoting agricultural development and particularly in relation to women’s rights, the report acknowledges. It is feared that much of the progress will be reversed under the Taliban regime, but some experts interviewed “were cautiously optimistic that the efforts … had helped build lasting pressure for social change.”
Nevertheless, aid programs have suffered from a number of other problems, according to the study. They include reliance on parallel institutions staffed by consultants, the capture of Kabul’s central government by corrupt elites, Afghanistan’s overwhelming reliance on foreign aid, and limited engagement with local leaders.
The ICAI expects the government to respond to its criticisms in January 2023.
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