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Ambassador Said T. Jawad Discusses Aid Effectiveness at the Center for American Progress

Ambassador Said T. Jawad briefed a private audience at the Center for American Progress on May 11. The Ambassador’s remarks focused on aid effectiveness in Afghanistan’s post-conflict reconstruction, but also encompassed how reconstruction must be increasingly interwoven with military operations, why the Taliban’s spring offensive has not materialized, and investing in infrastructure, public health and humanitarian relief to ensure greater security.

In the last few months, the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees have held numerous hearings on Afghanistan. Senators and witnesses alike voiced concern regarding the security challenges and the slow progress of reconstruction in some areas of the country. "Last year, 4000 Afghans died as a result of terrorism and war. This is a terrible tragedy, but we also must remember that 18,000 Afghan women died giving birth during that same period; just as tragic, but easily preventable. Afghans need to see tangible benefits in their daily lives. Investing in infrastructure and humanitarian relief is a vital component of mission in Afghanistan, and will ultimately bring greater security for the Afghan people," said the Ambassador.

The Ambassador informed the audience that in the last two weeks, Afghanistan suffered 90 civilian casualties as the result of Coalition air strikes. An apology earlier in the week by Col. John Nicholson to the families of the victims of last month’s tragic shootings in Jalalabad was a step in the right direction, the Ambassador stressed that words must be followed by action. “Every civilian death undermines the mission and risks further alienating the people. The goodwill of the Afghan people is our most important asset in this mission, and we erode that goodwill with every additional innocent death,” said the Ambassador.

The Ambassador cautioned against underinvestment in crucial reconstruction projects, pointing out that while the 2007 supplemental is generous in military spending, only a fraction of the funds are expected to cover the country’s vast reconstruction needs. While the U.S. has provided $14 billion to Afghanistan, only $3 billion has been given to Afghan government in five years. The UK's Department For International Development (Dfid) estimates that the money given to the government and spent directly by it is eight times more productive than when spent by outside agencies. Despite these findings, only 5% of assistance funds are given to the Afghan government. A lack of coordination creates waste and emphasizes donors priorities over community needs.

The Ambassador concluded his remarks by recommending the Afghan National Development Strategy as a guide for recognizing Afghanistan's national priorities. He identified the forthcoming renewal of the Afghan Freedom Support Act as an opportunity for Congress to reexamine US priorities in Afghanistan. "In order the build the government’s capacity and increase coordination and effectiveness, more aid should be implemented through the national budgetary framework, the private sector, and international trust funds," he said.

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