Page last updated at 01:29 GMT, Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Afghan aid risks 'militarisation'

By David Loyn
BBC international development correspondent

An Afghan girl sits on the ground in front of a house in the Pech Valley, Kunar province, northeastern Afghanistan
Quick fixes do not have a lasting impact, aid agencies say

Aid agencies have warned that there is a danger of growing militarisation of the aid effort to Afghanistan.

A report published by eight agencies says the pressure to show quick results has led to aid going through military rather than civilian channels.

They say this is is not effective in the long term.

In a separate report, the Red Cross have said that the number of civilian casualties from the fighting in Afghanistan rose substantially in 2009.

The reports come a day ahead of a major international conference on Afghanistan to be held in London.

'Quick fixes'

The militarisation of aid began with the US, whose commanders have millions of dollars to spend in the field.

A group of aid agencies including Oxfam, Care and Afghanaid - all with long experience in Afghanistan - have calculated that this year $1bn will be spent on aid by the military. This is more than the Afghan government's budget for health, education and agriculture combined.

It can serve a useful counter-insurgency purpose - foreign forces aiming to win hearts and minds with foreign aid.

But the policy has had the effect of cutting aid to some of the poorest parts of Afghanistan where there is no conflict.

Worse than that, the aid agencies say that the quick fixes brought in by the military often have no lasting impact.

They found that projects designed to win hearts and minds rather than cut poverty are often inappropriate, poorly implemented, and at risk of attack from the Taliban.

In a separate report, the International Committee of the Red Cross says that the Afghan war is taking a larger toll than ever on civilian life.

A survey of a hospital in Kandahar found that the total number of wounded civilians in 2009 was up by 25% on the year before.

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