Commentary: withdrawal from afghanistan: keeping up, becoming honest

More money for development cooperation with Afghanistan is good, transparency is better. How about a list of all German projects?

The mixing of military and development is one of the most serious problems of the Afghanistan mission. Picture: dpa

What can be said against the German government increasing development cooperation (DC) funds with Afghanistan? But if the money is to be used wisely, there is a need for discussion. Transparency is a prerequisite, and so far it has been finely dosed.

So far, the German government has tried to make us believe that the security situation in northern Afghanistan has improved. At the same time, however, details were withheld. The figures that have now been published – a 35 percent increase in "security-related incidents" – speak a different language, even if quantity is not the only criterion. Leaving the reporting to the Afghans in the future smells like a strategy to retain and further assert the sovereignty of the discourse: Everything is getting better, development projects are not a problem.

But that is not the case. On the one hand, projects can only be implemented well if people can check up on them themselves from time to time. But access is dwindling as the number of attacks increases. Secondly, security does not automatically mean the presence of the Bundeswehr or NATO troops.

With a few exceptions, most aid organizations do not want to be protected by soldiers. And this is not at all for ideological reasons, as they have often been accused of, including by the previous development minister. It is because special troops disguised as development aid workers cause confusion and mistrust. This is simply a question of survival.

The first and last public evaluation of German DC to date is from 2010 and is limited to northern Afghanistan and what the local population thinks about it. These points are important, but not everything.

Can we please see a list of all German DC programs and projects since the end of 2001? Only then would it be possible to identify weaknesses, explain mistakes and bring the debate as a whole out of the experts’ corner.

The mixing of military and development, which made overcoming poverty a function of counterinsurgency, is one of the most problematic aspects of the Afghanistan mission. This must stop.

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