The efforts of the international community to bring aid to Afghanistan, help develop the infrastructure with the goal of allowing Afghanistan a chance at self sufficiency are failing dismally. That should not be a surprise to anyone with more than a passing knowledge of the international aid racket. The international community has spent hundreds of billions of dollars over the years in Africa without one iota of success at doing anything other then enriching vile, oppressive dictators while sentencing the average African to a life of misery, poverty and squalor. Most people in most places at most times have lived under the yoke of tyranny which seems, with the exception of the western world, to be the natural order of things. That’s the truth. One need not be a historical scholar to understand that truth because it is self evident – just look at Zimbabwe, Haiti, Mexico or Michigan and one will see the heavy hand of tyranny stealing from the people to enrich the powerful.
Is the average citizen of the African continent better off now that colonialism is dead? I doubt it and in fact have personally talked to hundreds of Africans who will tell you without much prodding that life in their country was much better for all during the days of European colonialism. I’m not advocating for the return of the colonial system but instead pointing out that Aid programs do not work unless the people delivering the aid are in the same boat as the recipients. If the countries who provide aid are not willing to send their aid workers into the recipient country and leave them there then it is much more humane for all involved to do nothing, to spend not one penny, to leave people to their own devices to fend for themselves and figure out how to join modernity on their own terms. Throwing billions into countries ruled by tyrants does nothing but increase human misery and mayhem; conditions which I’m firmly against as a matter of principle.
The Aid business is now a deadly business according to the New York Times in a long detailed story about NGO’s right down the street from us while ignoring our operational success and implementation savvy. I would think our success at accomplishing all projects on time and on budget in the most contested Provinces would garner some attention in the US media but it hasn’t. The reporter to recognize what we were accomplishing and write about it was the Toronto Star’s Mitch Potter who wrote about my buddy Panjwaii Tim and his Kandahar operation (read it here – it’s an excellent tale).
From the Times article attached above:
Among the contracted aid groups working for coalition government programs, which nearly always employ armed guards and work in fortified compounds or from military bases, the body count has been particularly severe. Eighty aid contractors employed by the United States Agency for International Development were killed and 220 wounded from January through early November of this year. (In the same period, 410 American soldiers and Marines died.)
The aid contractors were attacked on average 55 times a month a seven-fold increase over 2009, Mr. Gast said. By contrast, 20 people employed by charitable and humanitarian groups, which refuse to use armed guards or work with the military, were killed during the first nine months of this year.
The article goes on to point out that Doctors Without Borders has a compound in Lashkar Gah which has never been attacked unlike the heavily fortified IRD compound which is right down the street. That’s a good point, sort of, as I too think the heavily fortified compounds are a waste of money and invite attack from armed actors of various stripes. I live right behind the Doctors Without Borders compound and our compound is more modest and inconspicuous. Unlike our Doctor neighbors every expat bedroom is a mini armory/ammunition supply point. We don’t have wire lacing the top of our walls but we have plenty on our side of the wall out of view of the public. I pity the fool who jumps into our compound because he’s landing on top of triple strand concertina which will slow him long enough for the dogs to get into action.
Here is what really irritates me about the New York Times piece:
Mr. Watson agrees that the lines are often blurred. It makes it difficult for us in the humanitarian community to demonstrate to those on the other side of the conflict that we strive to be neutral intermediaries, he said.
The only “neutral intermediaries” Afghanistan has seen in modern times was the medical team headed by Dan Terry and Tom Little who accounted for 10 of the 20 humanitarian group members that were killed this year. Unlike Oxfam and Doctors Without Borders and all the armed knuckleheads like me running around the country Tom and Dan lived here, were fluent in local languages, were never armed, and were seen by all sides as being neutral. Yet they were gunned down in cold blood by Islamic insurgents affiliated with the Taliban. The Taliban once believed in in neutral intermediaries which is why Tom Little and Dan Terry lived and worked in Afghanistan during the Taliban reign. Now the Taliban clearly do not respect neutral intermediaries which was proven beyond a doubt to myself and the other expats Free Ranging beyond the wire with the murder of Tom Little and Dan Terry.
The Governor of Nimroz Province Abdul Karim Brahui Barahawi, my super Provincial Manager Bashir and I opening up the Kang canal which will bring irrigation to an entire district for the first time in 40 years. Will projects like this help? I think they might but don’t really know. What I care about is this is what we do what we said we do without spending millions to do it.The international NGO community seems to specialize in administering ineffective aid at the margins. They want to be perceived by all sides as “neutral intermediaries” which makes motivates their international staff while giving them a false sense of security. But they do not have the staying power or religious based motivation that sustained Dan Terry and his wife for 30 years and thus the results they produce are as transitory as they are. If the true neutral intermediaries are no longer safe in Afghanistan then the only way “aid” is going to be accomplished is by aid workers who can protect themselves. Which is what we do but nobody else wants to do despite the fact it is the only way to get things done.
The ineptitude of our Taliban advisories is one reason why the military portion of the surge is working so well. Another reason is that we have (under the radar) eased up the restrictions on the use of firepower. As I mentioned in past posts the Marines down south have no problems with the ROE and they shoot HIMARS and run tac air daily. Spencer Ackerman at Danger Room has blogged on the HIMAR but unlike his observations it seemed to me that shooting HIMARS was easier for the Marines then working in Tac Air. Regardless it is clear that the military has turned a corner and is prevailing on the southern field of battle. For a retired infantry guy like me it is great to see but it is also irrelevant.
The reason our current military success is meaningless is because our other governmental agencies insist on work through the government in Kabul despite a decade of experience proving the central government is not going to function like a western government. The other problem that every senior decision maker involved with this endeavor also knows is that the people of Afghanistan will not accept a government installed and maintained by infidels as legitimate. It’s one of those inconvenient truths that is not discused in polite company.
It occurs to me that a rational approach towards Afghanistan would mandate we spend more time and effort bolstering leaders like Governor Abdul Karim Brahui while simultaneously ignoring and marginalizing the central government in Kabul. That is the only way (as I see it) that we can compliment the military success we are seeing in the South. The support to these governors should consist of small teams that mimic our methodology but just because our unique operational approach works is no reason to reinforce us because guess why? The big boys in the aid racket don’t want effective solutions they want giant multi million dollar contracts and despite a 10 year history of failure they will get their due. There is no money to be made by these crony firms for putting a hand full of guys out into the bad lands to work directly with Provincial officials, effectiveness be damned. Those fools will continue pissing away a kings fortune daily while accomplishing little and won’t stop until forced from power. That is not right, it is not fair, it pisses me off but I’ll you this; it is the truth.