Millennium Post

Afghans will need billions more in aid, as US looks to leave

Kabul: Afghanistan will need vast amounts of foreign funding to keep its government afloat through 2024, a US agency said Friday, even as foreign donors are increasingly angry over the cost of debilitating corruption and the US seeks a peace deal with Taliban to withdraw its troops from the country.

International money pays for roughly 75 per cent of all of Afghanistan's costs while government revenue covers barely a quarter of Afghan public expenditures.

The Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction, which issues reports quarterly to US Congress, monitors all US spending in the 18-year war in Afghanistan, America's longest war.

The agency's latest report was sharply critical of the Afghan government's efforts to curb corruption, saying it is one of the biggest concerns among frustrated donors.

President Ashraf Ghani's administration "is more interested in checking off boxes for the international community than in actually uprooting its corruption problem," the report said, referring to the Afghan government's failing anti-graft drive.

Ghani's future is uncertain as final results of last year's presidential election have yet to be announced, though the preliminary results gave Ghani the win.

His main rival, Abdullah Abdullah, who serves as the country's chief executive in a fragile national unity government with Ghani, has claimed fraud.

Afghanistan ranked last in the Asia-Pacific region for corruption, a global watchdog said earlier in January.

According to Transparency International, Afghanistan's global ranking last year at 173 of 180 countries it surveyed was the worst since the group began ranking the country in 2005.

Even as the international community is paying billions of dollars annually, the poverty rate in Afghanistan is climbing.

In 2012, 37 per cent of Afghans were listed below the poverty rate, surviving on less than USD 1 a day. Today that figure has risen to 55 per cent of Afghans.

According to the SIGAR report for the last quarter of 2019, international donors, led by Washington, provide the Afghan government with USD 8.5 billion annually to cover everything from security to education and health care, as well as economic reconstruction.

The United States is paying USD 4.2 billion yearly just for Afghanistan's security and defense forces.

SIGAR added that the overall value of opiates available for export in Afghanistan in 2018 estimated to be between USD 1.1 billion and USD 2.1 billion far outstripped the total value of all the country's legal exports at USD 875 million.

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