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

2  Economic, social, political and security context

10.  To understand DFID's work in Afghanistan and its future strategy it is necessary to understand the economic, social, political and security context in which it currently works within country and what could potentially happen in the future.

Economic context

11.  Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world. A third of the population lives on less than 60p per day.[13] Aid has supported much of its economic progress since 2001 and the Afghan Government remains heavily aid dependent. While the withdrawal of international combat forces will have its own economic impact, the World Bank also projects "an expected decline in civilian aid as international attention shifts elsewhere."[14] The average growth rate has been 9% over the past nine years but it is expected to decrease to 5-6% from 2011 to 2018.[15] Given that 70% of the population is under 25 years old and population growth is expected to continue at 2.8% annually, this is likely to mean continued high unemployment among the youth and little progress in reducing poverty.[16]

12.  The Afghan economy is largely dependent on agriculture and rural trade; around 85 % of the population is entirely reliant on income from agriculture and livestock. This is despite the fact that only 12 % of the country's land is arable and only half of that is currently under cultivation.[17] Agricultural growth over the past decade has been volatile, in part due to Afghanistan's vulnerability to disasters, and improvements remain limited. Agriculture and livestock based livelihoods remain largely dependent upon the success of rain-fed crops and pasture. Afghanistan experienced its eighth drought in eleven years in 2011, devastating rural families and threatening any potential progress in alleviating rural poverty.[18]

13.  Afghanistan's agricultural economy is under developed. The British and Irish Agencies Afghanistan Group (BAAG) highlighted the lack of market knowledge and modern agricultural and business skills in Afghanistan.[19] We heard while we were in Afghanistan that many agricultural products were sent to Pakistan to be processed or stored and then sold back to Afghanistan at much higher prices.

14.  The illicit economy, particularly around opium, remains significant. The income from opium production in 2011 was estimated to be roughly equivalent to 9% of the GDP.[20] Afghanistan is believed to supply roughly 93% of the opium on the world market and 90% of the heroin trafficked into the UK originated in Afghanistan.[21] While poppy eradication and alternative livelihood programmes have had mixed results, a UN Office on Drugs and Crime report finds a "strong association" between insecurity, lack of agricultural assistance and poppy cultivation.[22]

15.  The big hope for the future Afghan economy is its potential mineral wealth. Initial estimates from the US Geological Survey have suggested a possible $3 trillion in mineral assets, based on a partial survey of the country.[23] However, mining profits are not likely to come online for another decade and it is an industry that generally does not result in widespread national employment. It also requires a skilled and mobile workforce and infrastructure to exploit resources that are largely located in remote or mountainous areas of the country—none of which are currently evident in Afghanistan.

Gender and women's participation in society

16.  Women in Afghanistan have made gains since the Taliban-led Government was ousted in 2001. The Constitution grants equal rights to men and women and Afghanistan is a signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). More girls are in school now than ever before in the country's history and more than a quarter of Afghanistan's parliamentarians are female. The legal and policy frameworks protecting and empowering women have been expanded in recent years including the establishment of a National Action Plan for the Women of Afghanistan (NAPWA) in 2007 and the Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW) law, which criminalised rape, in 2009.

17.  However, such gains are limited, and women and girls in Afghanistan continue to face enormous disadvantages. Afghan women's status remains amongst the worst in the world according to the UN's 2011 Gender Inequality Index. NAPWA has not been implemented[24] and the EVAW law remains largely unenforced; 87% of women report experiencing at least one form of domestic abuse which Human Rights Watch has specified as: physical, sexual, or psychological domestic violence or forced marriage and women who participate in public life do so at significant risk to their safety.[25]

18.  There are worrying signs that the advancements for women and girls made in the early years after the fall of the Taliban are receding. Human Rights Watch has repeatedly expressed concerns over the Afghan Government's increasingly conservative stance on the role of women, including President Karzai's recent public statement in support of the Ulema Council that instructed women not to travel unchaperoned or mix with men in education or work. There has been a sharp rise in violent attacks on women in Afghanistan over the past year with 17 cases of "honour killings" recorded across the country in March and April compared to 20 cases recorded for all of last year.[26]

Political context

19.  Afghanistan has been plagued by war and instability for more than three decades. For the past ten years, international forces and the Afghan Government have been at war with the Taliban. There has been little progress in negotiating a political settlement to the conflict. The role of the US, and Afghanistan's neighbouring countries, in establishing political talks and a realistic and successful process of security transition will be critical in averting regional interference and continued or new internal conflict.

20.  Despite significant international support and the presence of ISAF, the control of the government is tenuous. Historically, Afghan Government has been highly centralised with significant regional devolution of power in practice. Informal power networks, such as ethnic or tribal structures and former mujahedeen commanders, are as significant, if not more so, in shaping Afghan political, social and economic dynamics. As Mervyn Lee of Mercy Corps told us "Afghanistan as a country has never really respected Kabul. The rest of Afghanistan looks a bit askance at Kabul."[27] Government institutions at the sub-national level remain, weak and disconnected from the central Government.

21.  Afghanistan is comprised of numerous ethnic groups, including Pashtuns, Tajiks, Hazaras and Uzbeks. Post-Taliban political affiliation has broadly followed along ethnic, tribal and regional lines as demonstrated by the composition of voting blocks in recent elections. The development of political parties has been slow, with few that can be considered pan-ethnic. There have been very few incidents of ethnic-based violence since the fall of the Taliban, but lack of rule of law (particularly in rural areas) has led to local clashes over land or economic resources between various groups that have contributed to insecurity and provided openings for the insurgency.

22.  Afghanistan has historically lacked democratically elected institutions. The Parliament, introduced after the fall of the Taliban, is a bi-cameral structure comprised of the Meshrano Jirga (the Upper House) and Wolesi Jirga (the Lower House). It has at times taken a hard stand against President Karzai (for example, blocking the confirmation of several of President Karzai's post-2009 election ministers) and pressed for more accountable governance but has often been slow to pass legislation and enact key reforms.[28].

23.  Civil society has been traditionally weak, but has experienced enormous growth since the fall of the Taliban. Many civil society groups are concerned about the ways in which insecurity, transition and other factors will impact upon them. The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (to which the UK provides funding) appears to be under increasing political pressure, with the recent dismissal of three of its Commissioners by President Karzai. There have been allegations that they were removed due to a still-unreleased report on war crimes that implicated members of the Government, including First Vice President Fahim and Second Vice President Khalili; the Afghan Government denies this.[29] Their positions remain vacant with the Commission severely impaired and now functioning with only five of its nine Commissioners (a fourth was killed in 2011 and not replaced). The Commission plays a vital role in monitoring rights abuses and has in the past been a vocal and effective advocate for those whose rights have been violated. The media is also under increasing pressure. Following several high profile imprisonments of journalists and Government investigations of independent media outlets, a draft media law was recently introduced that would significantly expand Government control of media and curtail press freedom.[30]

24.  President Karzai, elected in 2004 and re-elected in 2009, is not eligible for re-election in 2014 due to constitutional term limits. There is currently no clear successor. Some analysts believe that President Karzai will ultimately select a candidate to endorse and attempt to continue to exert his influence through this individual. Others believe that he may attempt to stay on, for example by convening a loya jirga to alter the constitution.[31] President Karzai has denied such speculation and issued a public statement confirming that he would leave office once his term expired.[32]

25.  The prospect of security transition has exacerbated Afghanistan's already volatile political landscape. Key individuals within the Government are already positioning themselves for the withdrawal of international forces, fuelling uncertainty and unpredictability across Afghanistan's political landscape. On 4 August 2012, the Parliament voted to dismiss both the Minister of Defence, Abdul Rahim Wardak, and the Minister of the Interior, Bismullah Khan Mohameddi. President Karzai has recently identified replacements and has also replaced the head of the National Directorate for Security. While not yet confirmed, these appointments have raised some concerns from human rights activists.[33] There is also uncertainty about the Minister of Finance, Omar Zakhilwal, who is currently under investigation for corruption. Analysts have interpreted these developments, particularly with regard to the Ministries of Defence and Interior, as political manoeuvres orchestrated by President Karzai to strengthen his position among southern Pashtuns.[34]


26.  Fraud and widespread corruption have undermined international confidence in the Afghan Government. The previous Secretary of State, Rt Hon Andrew Mitchell, described corruption as "endemic in Afghanistan."[35] There are indications that the problem is getting worse: Afghanistan ranks 180 out of 183 on Transparency International 2011 Corruption Perception Index, compared to 117 out of the 158 countries ranked in 2005. We heard evidence that corruption is a growing threat not only to the effectiveness of international assistance but also the legitimacy of the state in the eyes of the Afghan people and ultimately the long term viability of the Government. David Loyn, a BBC correspondent, told us:

At the moment, it is effectively a rentier state. There is quite a lot of academic work now about rentier states. They do not succeed; they are mostly in Africa; and they tend to create elites who are funded by corrupt patronage, use patronage and fund corrupt practices. That is exactly what has been happening in Afghanistan.[36]

27.  Since our predecessor Committee's report, several Government bodies have been created and initiatives have been launched to fight corruption. These include the High Office of Oversight and Anti-Corruption and the Major Crimes Task Force within the Attorney General's Office. Most recently, on 21 June 2012, President Karzai launched an anti-corruption push in the Afghan Parliament by appealing to donors not to give construction and businesses contracts to Afghan Government officials or their relatives.[37] Unfortunately, the effectiveness of these initiatives has been extremely limited, and often obstructed by interference from senior officials. An Asia Foundation study commented that:

Efforts at curbing corruption to date appear too modest, often ill-suited, badly-informed, and narrow-minded. As a result, if there are some anti-corruption successes, they look like islands of integrity.[38]

Similarly, the recent Independent Commission on Aid Impact (ICAI)'s audit of DFID's programme in Afghanistan warned:

Anti-corruption measures in Afghanistan are ineffective. There are multiple agencies with ill-defined roles and limited independence. Afghan agencies such as the Ministry of Justice and the police force have a history of reported corruption.[39]

28.  David Loyn argued that the massive influx of international aid in recent years had exacerbated corruption.[40] The Asia Foundation study commented that:

Oversight mechanisms have been overwhelmed, while insecurity makes it impossible for many donors to go visit the projects that they fund. Some have even institutionalized the absence of oversight. Massive inflows of aid also mean pressure to spend quickly, which has often led to parallel systems lacking in accountability, and non-participatory or discretionary decision-making.[41]

While David Loyn thought there would be a significant reduction in corruption when aid decreased,[42] other witnesses felt that the deeply entrenched patronage networks that drive corruption were unlikely to simply go away. These networks may continue to play a significant political and economic role, and the ways in which they might adapt to the withdrawal of troops and a likely decrease in aid was of concern. Dr Gordon of the LSE commented:

I think the real concern in terms of many of the institutions is the way in which they adapt to the tap being turned off and the way in which they reconnect, or connect more firmly, to the narcotics industry. [43]

Kabul Bank scandal

29.  The Kabul Bank scandal has perhaps been the most visible and damaging case of corruption to date in Afghanistan. Prior to the scandal, Kabul Bank held accounts for several key ministries and paid the salaries for civil servants, teachers, police and other Government employees. It is reported that the bank's management had ties to key powerholders including Vice President Marshall Fahim and the brother of the President, Mahmoud Karzai, who allegedly received a significant loan from the Kabul Bank to buy his share in the bank.[44] In September 2010, when hundreds of millions of dollars in losses were reported, primarily from shareholder investments in Dubai, there was effectively a run on the bank. Public confidence in the banking system was severely eroded. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) suspended its credit programme to the Afghan Government, requesting an audit of Afghan banks, and several donors (including the UK) suspended, but have since resumed, funding to the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (discussed in more detail later in the report).

30.  DFID has been working with the Afghan Ministry of Finance to help recover some of the assets. The Minister of Finance, Omar Zakhilwal, assured us when we met him in Kabul that he was taking action not only to recover assets but to bring the perpetrators to justice. While some of the funds have been traced, there has been little concrete action to date to bring those believed to be responsible to justice. David Loyn told us:

$120 million of the Kabul Bank money that was stolen has been traced. There is more widespread acceptance that they will not get a huge amount more of it back. There has been a property market collapse in Dubai. No one knows quite how much money there really is. If it had been invested, it would now be $900million, but the belief is that it is probably around $500million that they would be looking for.[45]

Since our visit it has been reported that the Finance Minister himself has also come under investigation for separate allegations of corruption. [46] (see para 25)

31.  The Kabul Bank crisis is but one of many examples that illustrate just how significantly corruption threatens to undermine the state. High profile scandals continue to emerge. In June 2012, the EU suspended funding to the Law and Order Trust Fund, which supplies funds for 120,000 Afghan police salaries, due to allegations of corruption.[47] The fund has received $2.9billion in aid from multiple nations, including the UK, since 2002.[48] With less aid money flowing into Afghanistan, donors may gain greater leverage to hold the Afghan Government to account on these issues and impose stronger conditions on funding to the Government. Doing so requires strong coordination, vigilant monitoring and sustained political will within the international community to tackle the problem.


32.  Presidential elections were last held in 2009 and Parliamentary elections in 2010.[49] Both elections were marred by widespread violence and fraud. The next round of Presidential elections will be held in 2014, prior to the end of security transition, and Parliamentary elections are due to be held in 2015, following the end of the formal security transition process. 2014 will be the first post-Taliban Presidential election in which President Karzai will not stand.

33.  It has been reported that urgently needed reforms to the electoral law and structure of the Independent Electoral Commission have been slow moving.[50] There is also significant concern that it is already too late to correct voter lists in time for the Presidential election, given the challenges of widespread illiteracy, a high proportion of the population without formal identity documents and worsening security problems.[51]

34.  Witnesses questioned the Afghan Government's capacity—and indeed willingness—to support transparent, inclusive, fair and credible electoral process. David Loyn commented that "There will be, over the next two years—we have already seen it—significant pressure from President Karzai to keep the international community out."[52]


35.  The Committee received a positive briefing from British and ISAF military commanders while in Afghanistan which indicated that they believed security had improved during the past year. Their position was that it was now much safer for Afghans to travel around and there was much more freedom of movement. In addition Dr Gordon of the London School of Economics told us of a recent trip to Helmand:

I went on a patrol with the American military in Sangin, and unlike on earlier trips there was no shooting and no IEDs. We managed to walk through the bazaar for the best part of two hours. You could never have done that 18 months or so before that. There has been a change. [53]

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) Human Rights Unit also found that violence had dropped slightly in the first six months of 2012. In all, 1,145 civilians were killed and 1,954 wounded in the first half of 2012, down 15% on the same six-month period in 2011.

36.  However, UN officials called the reduction a "hollow trend" and warned that civilians were still being killed at "alarmingly high levels", with four-fifths of deaths attributed to attacks by the Taliban-led insurgency. Nicholas Haysom, the UN's Deputy Special Representative to Afghanistan, said:

The reduction in civilian casualties is welcomed, but these gains are fragile. They do not reflect a move towards a peaceful society. [...] This report does not suggest that Afghans are necessarily safer or better protected in their communities. Nor does is suggest any real or concerted attempt by anti-government elements to minimise civilian casualties.[54]

While the proportion killed by Afghan Government or ISAF forces has dropped to around 10%, a significant reduction from previous years, targeted killings by insurgents of civilians, such as Government employees, tribal elders and contractors, working with the Government or ISAF forces rose by 53%.[55] Moreover, the UN indicated that violence had increased in July 2012.[56]

37.  Regardless of the reduction of violence in the first half of 2012 other organisations argued that the security situation had significantly deteriorated overall since 2006. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) described the current situation:

Widespread conflict continues to devastate the live of Afghans in many districts and villages. The threat of civilian casualties, internal displacement, and insufficient access to medical care, are only some of the challenges. All of them occur against a backdrop of a splintering of armed groups, night raids, air strikes, suicide bombing, and the laying of improvised explosive devices. The expansion of the conflict to previously quiet areas has increased people's difficulties and left whole communities trapped between warring parties. The south, east, north, north-west and central regions are the worst affected.[57]

38.  Despite the surge in international troops since 2010 and increased civilian and military aid, 2011 was the most violent year since 2001.[58] The Afghan NGO Safety Office (ANSO) reported that opposition attacks increased to 40 a day in the first six months of the year, up 119% since 2009 and 42 % since 2010. Insurgent attacks reached previously secure areas including Parwan and Bamiyan as the war spread to many new parts of the country. In addition, 2011 saw the highest number of civilian casualties since 2001. UNAMA recorded 3,021 conflict-related civilian deaths in 2001, an 8% increase since 2010.[59] Some 80% were attributed to anti-government forces, most commonly caused by IEDs.[60]

39.  The International Rescue Committee noted that this deterioration was true both for "classic" security related to conflict and violence, but also for personal security. As evidence, they pointed to record low returns of Afghan refugees from other countries, record high numbers of Afghan asylum seekers in other countries, record high internal displacement and increasing migration from rural to urban areas in search of economic opportunities.[61]

40.  BAAG reported that the deteriorating security situation was threatening the ability of NGOs to operate in many areas of the country, including major cities.[62] ANSO also reported a 73% increase since 2010 in attacks against aid workers. David Page of Afghanaid said:

We are already experiencing a deterioration of the security conditions in the provinces where we work. One hears that in Helmand things are a great deal better, but in Ghor to the north of Helmand, or even in Badakhshan in the north-east, you have got a great deal more instability as people position themselves for this 2014 deadline. [63]

The Afghan diaspora in the UK told as that they increasingly feared kidnappings when returning to visit family in Afghanistan and therefore kept a very low profile.[64] This was echoed by the businessmen we met at the Afghan Chambers of Commerce who spoke of their fear of kidnapping and of violence against themselves and their families.


41.  The Afghan Taliban consists of a complex network of several linked groups. After the Taliban collapsed in 2001, many of its leaders fled to Pakistan and have reorganised under the leadership of the Quetta shura.[65] In addition, the Haqqani network, Hezb-i-Islami Gulbuddin and several other insurgent groups function throughout the country with different levels of integration, coordination and cooperation with one another. The reliability of estimates of the size of the Taliban's fighting force are questionable, but publicly reported ISAF estimates have remained consistent in recent years at approximately 25,000-35,000 fighters. The leadership of many of these groups, including the Islamic Emirate and Haqqani, are believed to reside in Pakistan and there are strong allegations that they receive support from individuals, including Pakistani intelligence officials, with links to the Pakistan Government.[66] There is mounting evidence that Pakistan's support may extend further. A leaked 2012 ISAF report asserted that "the Government of Pakistan remains intimately involved with the Taliban" and that "Pakistan remains fundamentally opposed to GIRoA [Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan]."[67]

42.  Other criminals and warlords not allied with the Taliban continue to threaten security. Motivations are not ideological but primarily economic, and often linked to the resurgent poppy economy. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime estimates that the Taliban and criminal groups derive $150million a year from the narcotics trade.[68]


43.  At the London Conference in 2010 the troop-contributing countries agreed, together with the Afghan Government, that the international forces would gradually transfer responsibility for security across Afghanistan to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). The NATO mission aimed to train a 157,000 strong police force and 195,000 soldiers by the end of 2012 to take over from international forces and this is believed to be on track, with 149,600 police and 194,500 army as of mid-May 2012.

Source: ISAF

Transition began in July 2011 and is happening in phases with tranches of districts and provinces being handed over to the Afghan forces. Three tranches have already begun the handover process, with two remaining. All tranches will have completed transition by the end of 2014.

Source: ISAF

Afghan National Army

44.  There was a notable difference in the use of language we heard from the British military on our visit to Afghanistan compared to that of 2007—there was no longer talk of beating the insurgents and winning hearts and minds but instead creating a situation where the Afghan Government and the Afghan National Army (ANA) could control the situation. Brigadier Skeates, deputy commander of Regional Command (Southwest), told us that no one would win militarily and that peace had to come through a political settlement. We were told by Task Force Helmand that there would always be insurgents with over 25,000 over the border in Pakistan—their aim was therefore not to beat them but to tip the balance towards the Afghan Government and ANA so they would be in a better position to maintain security. ISAF is backing away from direct counter insurgency work and instead is training and advising the ANA as well as providing capabilities such as medical support and helicopters. We also heard many references to the work of DFID from the military and its importance in changing livelihoods to provide incentives to discourage people from growing poppies or joining the Taliban. There were also discussions about the slow pace of progress and being realistic about what 'success' looked like as opposed to discussions of fast gains.

45.  David Loyn believed there had been improvements with the Afghan Army:

They are better than they were. The trainers I talked to say that they are better than they thought they were going to be by now. The mid ranking ANA officers whom I have spoken to are in a completely different league to where they were only four or five years ago. They seem to be an impressive and cohesive national force.[69]

Whether they will be able to guarantee security particularly in the absence of a political settlement to end the conflict remains unclear. David Loyn conceded "They are not anything like as good as the forces that the Russians had put together by the same period; they are nothing like as ruthless. [...]We are leaving Afghanistan in a much less secure state than it was left in 1989."[70]

Afghan National Police

46.  With regard to the Afghan police, our predecessor Committee concluded that "corruption and bribery are rife and this is hampering acceptance of the police as a force for good."[71] While we recognise that there have been some improvements in training and recruitment, we share the same concerns as our predecessor Committee with regard to the capacity and accountability of the Afghan police. On our visit to Afghanistan, we heard strong fears from Afghans about corruption and the ineffectiveness of the police force. A survey released by the UN earlier in 2012 found that more than half of Afghans see the police as corrupt. While the survey notes that public opinion has slightly improved in recent years, only 20% believe that the police will be able to keep order once international forces leave.[72]

47.  There were also concerns that the Afghan police continue to play a paramilitary role rather than one focused on civilian policing and tackling criminality. Civil society groups believed that the police—particularly those outside of Kabul—were trained on counter insurgency rather than on civilian policing models, focused on protecting civilians and upholding the law. They also suggested that many police were loyal to their local commander rather than to the Government. These local commanders did not have a sense of responsibility to the community but saw their position as the reward of a larger patronage system. They were therefore reluctant to report crimes, as they did not want their area to be seen as dangerous and therefore that they were failing in their role.

48.  The Afghan female civil society activists we met in Kabul were very critical of the police attitude towards women. That told us that women did not trust the police as they often shouted insults and were viewed as unaccountable for their actions. This echoes results from a 2011 survey of the views of women in Kabul on the Afghan police, which found that women rarely felt that they could turn to police for help. This survey also found that there was significant resistance to gender or human rights-focused training or policies within the Ministry of Interior and that much of the albeit modest progress in recruiting women police and gender-sensitising policing was a result of consistent international pressure.[73]

49.  Oxfam recommended reforms such as better training and awareness regarding human rights and women's rights, accelerated recruitment of female security personnel, and much greater attention to women's needs such as increased awareness and enforcement of laws addressing violence against women. Our predecessor Committee also recommended that "the recruitment, training and retention of female police officers" should be "given appropriate priority". [74] In addition Oxfam would like to see established a well-publicised, transparent and independent complaints review mechanisms for the ANP, accessible to both men and women.[75]

Afghan Local Police

50.  Human Rights Watch were concerned by the Afghan Government efforts to combat insurgency by arming and providing money, with little oversight, to militias that have been implicated in killings, rape, and forcible collection of illegal taxes.[76] The Afghan Local Police (ALP), village-based defence forces trained and mentored primarily by US Special Forces but which report to the Ministry of Interior, have been created in parts of the country with limited police and military presence. There are believed to be approximately 13,000 ALP, with 30,000 planned to be recruited and trained by the end of 2014. In its first year ALP units were implicated—with few consequences for perpetrators—in killings, abductions illegal raids, and beatings, raising serious questions about Government and international efforts to vet and train these forces[77] There is little to no oversight and accountability and the ANSF in general lacks sufficient, accessible complaints mechanisms. Our predecessor Committee raised concerns about such militias, stating:

We have reservations about the suggestion of arming local communities to defend themselves. While we accept that there are many people who already have weapons, we believe that it is important that donors do not encourage or exacerbate factionalism and tribalism.[78]

Afghan National Security Forces summary

51.  While there has been significant progress with the ANSF, the effort faces serious challenges, including attrition, insurgent infiltration, illiteracy and substance abuse among recruits. Incidents in which ANSF have attacked and killed their international mentors known as 'green on blue' attacks are of growing concern. There have been 34 such attacks so far this year resulting in the deaths of 45 international troops and accounting for a quarter of UK military deaths to date in 2012.[79]

52.  What is increasingly clear is that the current target for the ANSF will be financially unsustainable. As Robert Fox told the Defence Committee recently "nobody believes for a minute that that number could be sustained on the funding that is likely to be available after 2014."[80] Prior to the NATO summit in Chicago, a conceptual model for the Afghan security forces after 2014 was endorsed that foresaw a target of 228,500 police and army personnel by the end of 2017—a reduction of 123,500—with an annual estimated budget of $4.1billion.[81] This figure is equivalent to a quarter of Afghanistan's gross domestic product and is two and half times total annual Government revenue.[82] It is currently unclear how much money goes to the ANSF due to lack of donor coordination and transparency, but retaining the current force size is estimated to cost $5billion annually.[83] Even if this reduction is gradual, it presents a number of challenges in terms of disarmament, creating viable alternative employment for those dismissed and sustaining international financial support for the annual budget requirements to support the ANSF. As Gerard Russell, an analyst on Afghanistan, highlighted:

Afghan forces will rise to a peak of 350,000 people, but will that be sustainable? […] Or is this going to end up being a system by which many people are recruited—perhaps hastily recruited—and trained in how to use a weapon and then made unemployed?[84]

53.  There are also concerns about whether troops will remain loyal to the central Government after 2014, particularly if funding for security forces is reduced. Dr Gordon of the LSE said:

If you remove the funding, what you have got is a well trained militia. There are already signs, in parts of Helmand and elsewhere, in particular, of some of those security forces, particularly the ANA and some of the militia, realigning with some of the local power brokers; the old strongmen. I think it is that fragmentation along tribal and patronage network lines that is the real concern.[85]

54.  The ANSF is mostly a defence matter and a subject that the House of Commons Defence Committee is currently inquiring into. However, its success is important to the delivery of development in Afghanistan. In addition, DFID has a role to play in this. DFID funds £7,230,000 on 'Strategic Support' advice to the Ministry of Interior, 2010-14, which aims to support the capability and accountability of the ministry. The Ministry of the Interior is responsible for both the Afghan National Police and the Afghan Local Police. The then Secretary of State also informed us that DFID provides funding to the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission which investigates human rights abuses.[86] In its oversight advice role to the Ministry of Interior on accountability, we recommend that DFID insist on the creation of an external oversight body to provide a way to investigate and follow up allegations of violations by not only Afghan Local Police but the whole of the Afghan National Security Force. This body could potentially be managed by the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission which is also supported by the UK Government. Such a body should be empowered to receive and investigate complaints, make public their findings and make recommendations about how to redress individual complaints.

Peace and reconciliation

55.  Little progress has been made on working towards a political settlement that would end the conflict between the Afghan Government, international forces and the various factions of the insurgency. A High Peace Council was appointed by President Karzai in September 2010 to facilitate peace talks and to lead reconciliation. The Council was initially chaired by former President of Afghanistan, Burhanuddin Rabbani and membership included some former members of the Taliban, former mujahedeen leaders and nine women. Outreach efforts by the High Peace Council have been undermined by ongoing violence in many parts of the country. This culminated in the September 2011 assassination of Rabbani and the subsequent assassination in May 2012 of High Peace Council member Arsala Rahmani effectively halting its work.

56.  In January 2012 the Taliban announced it would open an office in Doha, Qatar, which led commentators to believe they were ready to negotiate. But by March 2012 the Taliban said it was suspending negotiations with the USA. It is thought that this was because the Taliban did not accept the presence of the Karzai Government at the talks which it sees as illegitimate, or due to the US failure to agree to a proposed prisoner swap.[87]

57.  Another challenge has been the role of regional powers, particularly Pakistan but also Iran and India. The Afghan Government has accused the Pakistan Government of obstructing the peace process in the past and Pakistan continues to deny the existence of high level insurgent leaders in its territory.[88] However, there have been recent signs of progress. In July 2012, the Afghan Government and Pakistan Government agreed to regular meetings for a bi-lateral Peace Commission. Pakistan has also agreed to help facilitate talks with Taliban leaders and Afghan Government officials recently confirmed a meeting with a member of the Taliban leadership in Pakistan.[89]

58.  The Afghan Peace and Reintegration Programme (APRP) was created following the Kabul conference in June 2010 to try to reintegrate mid and low level fighters through financial incentives and training. APRP is supported directly through a trust fund administered by the United Nations Development Programme, which has received donations from 12 nations including the UK. The success of APRP has been limited. We were told by Brigadier Skeates in Helmand that only 62 out of a potential 5,000 insurgents in Helmand had joined the programme. The UN reported that as of May 2012, just 4,641 former insurgents had reintegrated through APRP nationally.[90] BAAG and Christian Aid expressed concerns about APRP. They cited limited gains in recruiting genuine reintegrees, human rights concerns, failure to provide insurgents with jobs and assistance, little credibility among the Afghan people and documented cases of individuals then returning to the insurgency.[91]

Post 2014 scenario

59.  The impact of the withdrawal of international troops remains to be seen and the opinions of analysts and other experts vary. Dr Gordon told us the most likely scenario was "somewhere towards status quo and partial meltdown in some areas, but with a central degree of authority and stability".[92] The UN has forecasted "a continued escalation of violent conflict fuelled by the departure of foreign security forces in country and subsequent increased humanitarian need, coupled with nominal humanitarian access or assistance."[93] Mercy Corps, an NGO working across Afghanistan and funded by DFID for its work in Helmand, was concerned by the potential spread of insecurity as tranches were handed over to ANSF, and the ISAF presence reduced. It told us that without a relatively secure environment, it was unlikely that economic and development progress would be achieved or maintained and that if fighting and conflict spread at the local level, the economy would almost certainly suffer.[94]

60.  Security during and after transition depends on a number of variables, including the capacity of the ANSF in 2014, the support and the role of the ISAF contributing countries and the military advisers that remain on after 2014. Naysan Adlparvar, a researcher on Afghanistan, said peace hinged on:

the amount, continuity and modalities of aid committed to Afghanistan; sources of growth; the emerging investment climate; the outcome and acceptability of the pending presidential elections; the role played by regional powers including Pakistan; and whether a political settlement with the Taliban, and other armed groups, is achieved and accepted by the Afghan people.[95]

61.  While much of Afghanistan's future economic stability depends on an improvement, or at minimum a halt, to the continued deterioration, of security, it also depends on continued financial support from the international community. The World Bank expects economic growth to slow up to 2025, and said that "sudden sharp drops in aid can be particularly destabilising by changing perceptions of the Government's strength and encouraging political actors and armed groups to challenge the state's authority."[96] Afghanistan has one of the highest aid dependencies in the world with 71% of its GDP funded by external assistance. Key donors have made significant, if reduced, pledges to support both the security forces as well as development and humanitarian assistance. As part of the $4.1billion pledged annually for security forces at the NATO Summit held in Chicago in May 2012, the British Government has pledged to provide £70million (approximately $110million) annually. The Afghan Government aims to assume responsibility for these costs by 2024. The Tokyo Conference (discussed further in the next chapter) resulted in donors pledging $16billion in civilian aid to Afghanistan up to 2015—a 35% decrease from current funding levels.

62.  There is also a concern that as a result of the withdrawal of international combat forces there will be a reduction in spending by the military which currently bolsters the Afghan economy. There will no longer be the high level of demand for food and provisions from local Afghan businesses which supply the foreign military forces and there will also be the loss of wages for civilian staff, security guards and interpreters who work for ISAF. A dramatic fall in GDP at the point of transition would undermine security, fuel perceptions of the international community turning its back on the country and ultimately threaten stability. ISAF troop-contributing countries (including the UK) should therefore quantify the likely economic impact of military withdrawal and commit to spend part of the peace dividend they gain when they bring troops home on ODA to Afghanistan, particularly in the years immediately following withdrawal.

63.  It is currently unclear where any reduction in aid after 2014 will be focused or how quickly aid will decline. There is a risk of both security and development being underfunded, with a resultant deterioration in public services.[97] Global Witness projected that "a reduction in foreign development assistance will correlate directly to a reduction in the Government's ability to provide services, infrastructure projects, Government salaries, and security […] There is a significant risk to development gains made in the past ten years if the transition is not carefully planned, and alternative and sustainable sources of funding are not secured."[98] Dr Gordon said that one of his main concerns was if the amount of international oversight of Kabul's expenditure was reduced there would be a further reduction of money flowing from Kabul down to the district level. He predicted that if that occurred it would have a dramatic impact on governance arrangements and make it more likely that other patronage systems would become more dominant and the informal sector of governance would end up dominating the formal.[99] It is not just a potential decrease in aid money and the drawdown of troops that is likely to affect the economy. The World Bank noted:

Recent performance has been on a downward trend […] transition presents serious threats to growth and economic stability, but these do not directly stem from declining aid itself. Key economic vulnerabilities are risks of drought (which would adversely affect volatile agricultural production) and of falling business confidence as a result of worsening insecurity, corruption, governance and uncertainty over Afghanistan's political future.[100]

64.  Impact at the local level is likely to vary, with provinces heavily dependent on aid tied to security objectives and on funding from the PRTs likely to be most severely affected. Mercy Corps highlighted that a large percentage of construction and related industries in Helmand were significantly bolstered by contracts awarded by the PRT. These range from the building of police checkpoints, road repair and school construction to repairs and maintenance of generators and electrical apparatus. It believed that without an international presence providing funding and overseeing these contracts the number and value would sharply decrease. Those which remained were likely to be awarded to a small number of companies, often based outside of Helmand and even Afghanistan, that have political support or links to Government officials. This meant that the construction boom that Helmand had experienced was likely to stall and previously working men of fighting age would be faced with fresh economic challenges.[101]

65.  A concern we heard whilst in Afghanistan was that the young and educated Afghans were already preparing to leave due to fear of what was going to happen post 2014. Ahmed Rashid believed that the exodus had already started and that this would have a detrimental effect on the civil service in which they were often working as well as the economy as it was losing its skilled labour.[102]

66.  As this chapter demonstrates, the situation in Afghanistan is very complex. There are great uncertainties about the political, security and economic future of Afghanistan, notably: the outcome of the 2014 elections; whether there will be a political settlement; economic growth; and the role of Afghanistan's neighbouring countries. In the light of these uncertainties DFID will need to be able to adapt. DFID will also need to continue to lead donors in pledging and disbursing aid so that there will not be any sudden drops in funding which could exacerbate an extremely fragile situation. Based on the assessment of the likely economic impact of military withdrawal, the UK Government should be prepared to do whatever it can to address this potential shortfall in spending including urging other governments to increase their aid commitments to Afghanistan to fill the economic gap.

13   Ev 41 Back

14   World Bank, Afghanistan in Transition: Looking Beyond 2014, May 2012, p 5 Back

15   World Bank, Afghanistan in Transition: Looking Beyond 2014, May 2012, p1 Back

16   "Western withdrawal need not mean civil war in Afghanistan. But America must talk to the Taleban", Spectator 18 August 2012. Back

17   Bob Rout, How Water Flows: A Typology of Irrigation Systems in Afghanistan, Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit Issue Paper, 2008.  Back

18   Ev 41 Back

19   Ev w42 Back

20   "Afghan drugs: opium price rise 133 %", BBC News Online, 12 January 2012,  Back

21   Vincent Bove, The Political Economy of Opium in Afghanistan, Institute for Democracy and Conflict Resolution Briefing Paper, October 2011. Back

22   UNODC, Afghanistan Opium Survey 2012: Opium Risk Assessment for All Regions (Phases 1 and 2), April 2012.  Back

23   DFID visit briefing to Committee Back

24   ACBAR Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan, Tokyo Briefing Paper: Women's Rights, July 2012  Back

25   Ev w30 Back

26   "Woman, children beheaded in Afghan "honour killing"" Afghanistan's Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), 4 July 2012 Back

27   Q30 Back

28   Freedom House: Afghanistan Back

29   "Top Afghans tied to 90s carnage, researchers say", New York Times, 22 July 2012 Back

30   "Afghanistan: Draft Media Law Threatens Media Freedom", Human Rights Watch Press Release, 2 July 2012 Back

31   Kenneth Katzman, Afghanistan: Post-Taliban Governance, Security and US Policy, Congressional Research Service 17 August 2012, p33 Back

32   "Karzai says he will not seek third term", The Telegraph, 11 August 2012 Back

33   "Afghanistan: Appoint rights-respecting intelligence chief", Human Rights Watch Press Release, 31 August 2012 Back

34   "As Afghanistan Turns" Los Angeles Times, 16 August 2012 Back

35   HC Deb, 16 June 2011 [Commons written answer]  Back

36   Q2 Back

37   BBC News Asia, 21 June 2012 Back

38   Yama Torabi, The Growing Challenge of Corruption in Afghanistan: Reflections on a Survey of the Afghanistan People, Part 3 of 4, The Asia Foundation, Occasional Paper No. 15, July 2012, p10 Back

39   Independent Commission for Aid Impact, Programme Controls and Assurance in Afghanistan, Report 6, March 2012 Back

40   Q 9 Back

41   Yama Torabi, The Growing Challenge of Corruption in Afghanistan: Reflections on a Survey of the Afghanistan People, Part 3 of 4, The Asia Foundation, Occasional Paper No. 15, July 2012 Back

42   Q9 Back

43   Q2 Back

44   "The great Afghan bank heist", New Yorker, 14 February 2011  Back

45   Q9 Back

46   "Afghan finance minister faces corruption investigation" Reuters,2 August 2012 Back

47   "UN probes suspected fraud at Afghan police fund", Agence France Presse, 18 June 2012 Back

48   " UN fund scrutinised for corruption", Wall Street Journal, 10 May 2012 Back

49   Jon Boone, Afghanistan election: fraud could delay results for months, observers warn, 19 September 2010 Back

50   " Why Afghans are pushing for democratic elections soon", Christian Science Monitor, 22 August 2012 Back

51   "Leading Afghans Cast Doubt on Electoral Schedule", Guardian, 3 April 2012  Back

52   Q 6 Back

53   Q15 Back

54   "Targeted killings in Afghanistan up 53 per cent", The Telegraph, 8 August 2012 Back

55   "Targeted killings in Afghanistan up 53 per cent", The Telegraph, 8 August 2012 Back

56   "Afghanistan civilian deaths fall, says UN", Guardian, 8 August 2012


57   International Committee of the Red Cross, The ICRC in Afghanistan, 1 June 2012  Back

58   Ev w40 Back

59   UNAMA Human Rights Unit, Afghanistan Annual Report: Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict , 2011, February 2012 Back

60   Ev w40 Back

61   Ev w46 Back

62   Ev w34 Back

63   Q 44 Back

64   Ev w65 Back

65   Quetta Shura is the name for the Taliban leadership council in exile Back

66   Matt Waldman, The Sun in the Sky: The Relationship between Pakistan's ISI and Afghan Insurgents, LSE Crisis States Research Centre Discussion Paper No. 18, June 2010 Back

67   The State of the Taliban 2012, 6 January 2012, TF-3-10 Bagram, Afghanistan, p8 and p9 Back

68   "Counternarcotics: The Afghan drugs trade", FCO website,  Back

69   Q16 Back

70   Q16 Back

71   International Development Committee, Fourth Report of Session 2007-08, Reconstructing Afghanistan, HC 65-I,para 91 Back

72   "UN poll: Afghan police still corrupt but improving", Associated Press, 31 January 2012 Back

73   Heinrich Boll Stiftung/Samuel Hall Consulting, Women's perceptions of the Afghan National Police, February 2012 Back

74   International Development Committee, Fourth Report of Session 2007-08, Reconstructing Afghanistan, HC 65-I, para 94 Back

75   Ev w54 Back

76   Ev w30 Back

77   Ev w30 Back

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

79   "Why are we still there? Questions over UK role in Afghanistan as training role is axed after murders", Daily Mail, 3 Sept 2012 Back

80   Defence Committee, Securing the future of Afghanistan, HC 413-i, Q8 Back

81   Chicago Summit Declaration on Afghanistan issued by the Heads of State and the Government of Afghanistan and Nations contributing to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), 21 May 2012 Back

82   William Byrd, Paying for Afghanistan's Security Forces during Transition: Issues for Chicago and Beyond, US Institute for Peace, 24 April 2012 Back

83   William Byrd, Paying for Afghanistan's Security Forces during Transition: Issues for Chicago and Beyond, US Institute for Peace, 24 April 2012 Back

84   Q2 Back

85   Q17 Back

86   Q107 Back

87   "Table Talk- Negotiating with the Taliban", Jane's Intelligence Review, 16 March 2012; "US sweetens Taliban prisoner proposal in bid to revive peace talks", Reuters, 7 August 2012 Back

88   "Afghanistan, Pakistan to resume talks on Afghan peace", Reuters, 19 July 2012  Back

89   "Meet with key Taliban chief in Pakistan to spur Afghan peace talks", Reuters, 12 August 2012 Back

90   UN Secretary General Report to the Security Council, The situation in Afghanistan and its implications for internal peace and security, June 2012, para 5 Back

91   Ev w3 Back

92   Q24 Back

93   UN Consolidated Appeal Afghanistan 2012 Back

94   Ev 36 Back

95   Ev w56 Back

96   World Bank, Afghanistan in Transition: Looking Beyond 2014, May 2012, p4 Back

97   World Bank, Afghanistan in Transition: Looking Beyond 2014, May 2012 Back

98   Ev w16 Back

99   Q3 Back

100   World Bank, Afghanistan in Transition: Looking Beyond 2014, May 2012, p6 Back

101   Ev 36 Back

102   Ahmed Rashid lecture to Chatham House, 'Afghanistan, Pakistan and the US withdrawal,' 20 April 2012 Back

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© Parliamentary copyright 2012
Prepared 25 October 2012