Monday, February 19, 2007

DFID under fire in Afghanistan

A report in today's Daily Telegraph highlights the ineffectiveness of the aid "effort" in southern Afghanistan so far. Until recently Britain's Department for International Development (DFID) had no representatives at all in Helmand because it was too dangerous and criticism of the department's approach is mounting. The former provincial governor, Mohammed Daoud, is especially scathing. "Their QIP (Quick Impact Projects) I called SIP projects: Slow Impact Projects", the Telegraph quotes him saying. DFID's failure so far is, however, partly because there is no consensus about whether or not to destroy the poppy crop on which many of the local farmers depend, and mainly because there are not enough troops on the ground to create the security needed for aid projects - such as alternatives to opium production - to take root.

The starkest example of this is the fighting over the Kajaki dam, north of the provincial capital, Lashkar Gah. The dam should be able to provide much-needed electricity for the Helmand region, but the barrage needs an extra turbine and the contractors hired to fit it will not start work until the surrounding area is clear of Taliban. A small force of Royal Marines has been trying to drive off the insurgents. Their efforts have been well-reported. But they do not have the numbers to hold the ground they clear. Once they withdraw the Taliban reappear. Until more troops are made available, aid work in the region is doomed to fail.

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