Ten years later, Afghanistan is largest aid recipient in the world
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Steve Chiotakis: Ten years ago today, the U.S. led Britain and other countries into the invasion of Afghanistan in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. And since then, Afghanistan has become the largest recipient of aid money in the world. The U.S. alone spends more than $300 million a month there.
The BBC’s David Loyn has just returned from Afghanistan. He’s been investigating where aid money has gone over the last decade. And David joins me now from London. Hi David.
David Loyn: Hi Steve.
Chiotakis: That’s a lot of money — I mean, where has all that money gone?
Loyn: Well I reckon that around $60 million a week — which is a huge amount of money — has gone into Afghanistan, the largest recipient of aid in the world over the last 10 years. And a lot of it has been misspent; a lot of it’s gone, frankly, back into the pockets of contractors in the U.S. and not touching the sides in Afghanistan.
There have been some successes — some girls are going to school, some clinics are working, roads have been built — but they’ve been at a huge cost. Those roads have cost maybe 3 or 4 times what they would have cost to build in the U.S. So huge mistakes have been made, and I think a lot of questions are now being asked by U.S. politicians about just how that aid money has been misspent.
Chiotakis: Ten years on now, David, what kind of lessons have we learned as far as spending money in Afghanistan?
Loyn: Well I think conceptual lessons are beginning to be learned. Hillary Clinton, the secretary of state, has talked about the failure to build the capacity of the Afghan government and a new willingness by U.S. donors to put money into government systems rather than outside the state.
But that’s been the big mistake over the years, I think, has been contractors coming believing that they can do things better than the Afghans; not training Afghans to do the work; spending a lot of money on Americans. It costs half a million dollars a year to keep a U.S. civilian in Afghanistan in terms of security and insurance and travel and all those other things.
And those are the costs that should have gone to Afghans and in fact went into the pockets of U.S. contractors. There have been major problems in a country which, ten years on, I think deserves better.
Chiotakis: The BBC’s David Loyn in London. David, thank you.
Loyn: Thanks Steve.