Afghanistan: Development progress and prospects after 2014 - International Development Committee Contents

1  Introduction

1.  Since the fall of the Taliban in 2001 there have been significant improvements in Afghanistan. 5.8 million children are now going to school compared to just one million under the Taliban, 2.2 million of them girls compared to just 5,000 under the Taliban.[1] Approximately 57% of the population can now access a health facility within one hour's walk compared to just 9% in 2002, and more than one in three pregnant women (36%) receive antenatal care compared to only 16% in 2003.[2] Over this period Afghanistan has received nearly $30billiion in aid and approximately $243billion in support to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF).[3]

2.  Our predecessor Committee visited Afghanistan in 2007 and reported on DFID's progress in 2008.[4] We decided to inquire into what the developments had been since then. We wanted to see the benefits UK aid spending had brought to Afghanistan as well as how DFID could operate in a potentially changing political and security context so therefore what DFID's policy should be in the future.

3.  There have been a number of developments in the international community's and the UK's interaction with Afghanistan since our predecessor Committee reported. It has been agreed that responsibility for security across Afghanistan will gradually transfer from the ISAF to the ANSF. The aim is for this to be completed by the end of 2014. UK and other foreign troops will only be present in Afghanistan after this date as advisers and mentors. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office notes, transition is not just about the transfer of security control:

a resilient ANSF is only part of the solution. Development of a viable Afghan state and a durable political settlement are also vital, and we will continue working with the Afghan Government and our international partners towards this.[5]

4.  Two important international conferences have taken place in the last year which have demonstrated to the Afghan people that the international community is committed to support Afghanistan for as long as is necessary. The Chicago Summit in May focused on the future funding of security forces in Afghanistan and the Tokyo Conference in July discussed the future of aid funding to Afghanistan. As the then Secretary of State, Rt Hon Andrew Mitchell MP, told us the outcomes from the conferences can "give confidence to people who are driving progress in Afghanistan that the international community will not desert them when the transition is complete."[6]

5.  Following the formation of the Coalition Government in the UK the National Security Council (NSC) was formed to oversee all aspects of Britain's security.[7] The NSC has approved an overarching strategy for the UK's engagement in Afghanistan. The strategy has three mutually reinforcing pillars covering security, political settlement and creating a viable Afghan state. DFID leads on the 'viable state' pillar, which aims to improve governance and the rule of law, create a stable and growing economy, tackle corruption and increase access to basic services.[8] DFID's vision is for "a more peaceful, stable, viable and prosperous Afghanistan."[9] This is unique in DFID's work and a departure from its traditional aim of 'poverty alleviation'. Since 2012 there has been a refocusing of DFID strategy with a stronger commitment to conflict and fragile-affected states accompanied by an increase to 30% the proportion of UK Official Development Assistance (ODA) spent on them.[10] In addition, the UK Government undertook a review of its bilateral programme and as a result has decided to increase aid to Afghanistan. It has announced that DFID's programme in Afghanistan will be £178million per year until 2015.[11]

6.  In January of this year the Prime Minister, the Rt Hon David Cameron MP, signed an 'Enduring Strategic Partnership' with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in which the UK Government confirmed its long term development support to Afghanistan subject to the Government of Afghanistan progressing with key reforms. The Prime Minister made clear that:

After our combat troops have left in 2014, there will be a strong relationship between Britain and Afghanistan; a relationship based on diplomacy, based on trade, based on our continued aid programme to help the Afghans build a stronger country.[12]

7.  We were helped on this inquiry by the specialist advice of Ashley Jackson, Research Fellow at the Overseas Development Institute in London who we would like to thank. We would also like to thank all the people and organisations which provided written evidence to the inquiry and the academics, subject specialists and organisations who appeared before us to give oral evidence. In addition we took oral evidence from the previous Secretary of State, Rt Hon Andrew Mitchell MP and had informal meetings with Rory Stewart MP, representatives from the Independent Commission on Aid Impact and Adam Smith International, all of whom we also thank.

8.  As part of the inquiry, we were keen to hear from Afghans, about their knowledge and opinions of DFID's work in Afghanistan. Following our call for evidence we did not receive a single submission from an Afghan citizen. We therefore worked with the Parliamentary Outreach Office and Mayvand Faqir, Chair of the Afghan Council, to organise two events for the Afghan diaspora in London to engage with the select committee process. At the events we held discussion groups focusing on: the benefits of DFID's projects in Afghanistan; criticisms of DFID's programme in Afghanistan; and the future of DFID in Afghanistan. We would like to thank the Afghan Council and the members of the Afghan diaspora for their participation in the events and the evidence gathering.

9.  We visited Afghanistan in June to help us understand what conditions were like on the ground for DFID staff, to hear how DFID projects were working first hand from the Afghan people and to meet senior Afghan Ministers. We visited Kabul before splitting into two groups. One group visited Bamiyan in Bamiyan Province whilst the second group went to Lashkar Gah in Helmand Province. We thank all the civil servants and members of the armed forces who helped to facilitate the visit as well as all the organisations who met us and welcomed us to their facilities and offices.

Box 1
We must note that our ability to get out and see DFID's work in Afghanistan was severely

limited due to security reasons. On other overseas visits we have been able to meet the

beneficiaries of DFID aid and observe projects to see their effects; in Afghanistan this

was not an option. As can be seen from our visit programme annexed to this report, while

some of us saw a few DFID-supported institutions, notably the impressive International

Red Cross Hospital in Kabul and a school just outside the city, most of our meetings were

with Afghan Ministers in their Ministries; NGOs, line ministry staff, civil society groups

and a few local Afghans who came to us at the embassy or PRTs as well as DFID staff.

The visit to the city of Bamiyan, which is one of the safest locations in Afghanistan, was a

particular disappointment. An excellent programme had been devised which involved

meeting local farmers and others. The New Zealanders in charge of the PRT were happy

to drive us to the locations, but the UK Government refused to permit us to travel with

them. This report is accordingly based more on what we have been told and the evidence

we have received than what we have seen firsthand.

1   Ashley Jackson, High Stakes: Girls' Education in Afghanistan, Oxfam International, February 2011. Back

2   Ev 40 Back

3   Lydia Poole, Afghanistan: Tracking major resource flows 2002-2010, Global Humanitarian Assistance January 2011, p 2 Back

4   International Development Committee, Fourth Report of Session 2007-08, Reconstructing Afghanistan, HC 65-I Back

5   "Top ten facts about transition", FCO Website Back

6   Q55 Back

7   "Establishment of a National Security Council" No 10 press release, Wednesday 12 May 2010 Back

8   Ev 40 Back

9   DFID Afghanistan, Operational plan 2011-15, June 2012 Back

10   DFID, FCO, MoD, Building stability overseas strategy, March , July 2011 Back

11   DFID Afghanistan, Operational plan 2011-15, June 2012 Back

12   "Prime Minister and President Karzai Press Conference", No 10 Website  Back

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© Parliamentary copyright 2012
Prepared 25 October 2012