U.S. withdrawal raises aid agency concerns

Dec. 5, 2011 at 11:56 PM
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KABUL, Afghanistan, Dec. 5 (UPI) -- Afghan aid agencies say they are concerned gains achieved in the country could be lost with budget cuts and withdrawal of U.S. civilian aid workers.

The agencies fear Afghanistan would be abandoned once the United States completes its withdrawal, The New York Times reported.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai told an international conference in Bonn, Germany, his country would need assistance for another decade. U.S. aid, which accounts for two-thirds of all development assistance to Afghanistan, was cut to $2 billion from $4 billion in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30 and Congress could cut it further in the fiscal year, the Times said.

The budget was cut by 80 percent for CARE, which helps set up schools and provide services for Afghan women, resulting in layoffs of 400 of its 900 workers in Afghanistan, the report said. Other U.S.-based aid groups also have been hit by budget cuts.

A senior U.S. official told the Times the $2 billion cut is being made up with unspent money from earlier years, thus sparing some programs.

The report said some Western donors question the Afghan government's ability to spend aid money efficiently without corruption.

The concerns are more about the cutbacks' long-term implications, since aid has been stressed as a critical part of the Americans' long-term counterinsurgency strategy.

"There is a fear that all this could be cut and Afghanistan could be left alone as it was in the '90s, which will have very bad consequences this time," said Hashim Mayar, adviser to the Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief, which represents many of the major relief groups in the country. "What we have gained should not be lost."

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