US says its civilian aid to Afghanistan has peaked
Washington: US civilian aid to Afghanistan has peaked, the State Department said in a new report, declaring the United States would spend less on development assistance there as it withdraws troops from the country.
"We have reached the high water mark of our civilian funding levels" for Afghanistan, the department said in a status report on civilian efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan that was sent to congressional offices and obtained by a news agency on Thursday.
US economic and humanitarian aid to Afghanistan has fallen from USD 4.1 billion in 2010 to USD 2.5 billion this year, the report by the Office of the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan said.
These amounts do not include tens of billions of dollars Washington has spent on training the Afghan Army and police.
President Barack Obama and allied leaders committed last year to turning security in Afghanistan over to Afghan control by 2014. By the end of next year, Obama plans to pull out 33,000 troops that he deployed in surge aimed at turning around the flagging decade-old conflict.
The State Department report said the United States is now shifting from funding stabilisation projects in Afghanistan to "long-term sustainable development at lower funding levels”.
It said future US aid in Afghanistan would focus on economic growth, such as in agriculture and mining, as well as infrastructure, such as energy and water, and in educational and vocational development.
The number of American government civilians serving in Afghanistan has nearly quadrupled from around 320 to more than 1,200, the report said, but it was silent on whether some would now be withdrawn along with US troops.
The Obama administration announced an increase in civilian advisers -- experts on matters ranging from agriculture to courts -- to Afghanistan in 2009 to accompany the influx of 33,000 US combat troops there.
Part of what was dubbed a "smart power" strategy, the idea of sending the civilians was to build on military gains with improvements in the lives of ordinary Afghans.
But the "smart power" idea is on the wane as US lawmakers prepare to carve chunks out of overseas spending to try to address budget shortfalls.
Support on Capitol Hill for aid to Afghanistan`s neighbour, Pakistan, has plummeted amid accusations that some in the Pakistani government have aided anti-US militants.
The State Department report said Congress had slipped on its 2009 promise to triple non-military aid to Pakistan over five years. The appropriations reached the promised level of USD 1.5 billion in 2010, but last year amounted to only USD 1 billion, the document said.
It said, however, that the Obama administration intended for assistance to Islamabad to continue and wants to focus on "signature" projects in Pakistan. US officials are currently looking to select a major new infrastructure project "that would both contribute to power generation and water management" in Pakistan, it said.
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