Fears for foreign aid after Afghan handover of controlPosted: March 22, 2011
Afghans have voiced fears that aid will dry up when foreign troops are replaced by the country’s own forces later this year.
They were speaking after President Hamid Karzai announced on Tuesday that Afghan forces would take responsibility this summer for security for seven areas, including Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital of Helmand where British troops are currently deployed.
“The Afghan nation doesn’t want the defence of this country to be in the hands of others anymore,” he told hundreds of dignitaries, police and soldiers. “This is our responsibility to raise our flag with honour and pride.”
The plan will also see Afghan forces take charge of security in areas including Kabul and Panjshir provinces, Herat city in the West, Mazar-e-Sharif in the north and Methar Lam to the east of Kabul as part of the overall strategy to start bringing Nato troops home.
The choice of Lashkar Gah has raised eyebrows in some quarters, with civilians there questioning whether their security forces are ready to battle the Taliban alone.
In Bamian, one of Afghanistan’s poorest but more peaceful provinces, there were fears that the departure of foreign troops would also bring an end to the aid they receive from the international community.
“Are you sure they are leaving? That’s not good. They help people, they make roads, clinics,” said Mohammad Nazuk Mir Chakaree, a 20-year-old graduate in Bamian, where a contingent from the New Zealand military is based.
Bamian is desperately poor and many people live in caves. Leprosy is not unusual.
The billions of dollars the country receives in international aid has mainly bypassed Bamian en route to provinces where the insurgency is stronger. Yet its people fear the departure of foreign troops will mean even less assistance. “The worry for all these years has been that the aid goes to the south [even though] places like Dai Kundi and Bamian are poorer,” said activist Wajma Frogh.
“When the foreigners withdraw [we worry that] we’ll get even less support for development. I have met people who have said ‘Maybe they want us to take up arms’ so they get more development money.”