News & Analysis
0

Afghanistan: There’s no hiding US failure in Afghanistan

Originalar ticle found on: Ground Truth

By Ben Brody on October 2nd, 2014

Blog: Troops who remain on the ground no longer try to sugarcoat the reality that the war has accomplished little of permanence.

Deep into the drawdown, fuel is no longer distributed to smaller bases by road — it is too dangerous and there aren't enough trucks. Two Chinooks at Kandahar Airfield prepare to deliver fuel containers to a small contingent of troops at FOB Apache in neighboring Zabul Province. (Ben Brody/GlobalPost)

Deep into the drawdown, fuel is no longer distributed to smaller bases by road — it is too dangerous and there aren’t enough trucks. Two Chinooks at Kandahar Airfield prepare to deliver fuel containers to a small contingent of troops at FOB Apache in neighboring Zabul Province. (Ben Brody/GlobalPost)

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — In ten years of covering the American military at war in Iraq and Afghanistan, I’ve become pretty used to the avalanche of Orwellian strategic messaging that comes with an embed. “Good news” is highlighted and discussed without context or sense of irony, “bad news” is excluded.

This last trip to Afghanistan was different. I was primarily there to cover the mechanics of the drawdown of troops, so of course the drawdown itself was presented as running along pretty smoothly. Fair enough. But this time there was no attempt to put the current mission into the larger context of a successful endgame. Even the military’s own messaging experts won’t touch a conclusion that absurd.

Iraq was always more saturated with strategic spin than Afghanistan, and no amount of unbridled optimism was ever considered unseemly or naive in the military’s eyes. I’ll never forget when a brigade commander told me that he expected his 4,000 soldiers to control Baghdad so thoroughly that no additional troops would be necessary at the end of his tour.

This was in January 2005, the insurgency in full swing, Sadr City boiling over. As the cradle of civilization burned, his media embeds were shown pointless construction projects and soldiers handing out Beanie Babies to children.

In Afghanistan, embedded reporters have been typically given more free rein, particularly during the 2009-2012 troop surge. At that time, it was easy to get to an isolated combat outpost and patrol alongside ground troops for weeks at a time. That brings its own editorial challenges, as reporters are expected to bond with troops through shared hardship, gradually nudging war coverage toward the positive.

Certainly, the story of the American war in Afghanistan has its positive aspects, but you can’t accurately tell the story of building a school for girls without putting it in the context of its tenuous lease on life and impending collapse.

As US troops leave their combat outposts, the Taliban is resurgent in a few key places and the Afghan Army is hard pressed in Helmand, the poppy-growing capital. Kabul is more dangerous for foreigners than ever, due to a new Taliban strategy of opportunistic assassinations. A few weeks ago, a US soldier momentarily stepped out of his armored truck to help a Kabul police officer direct traffic.

A Taliban fighter who happened to be nearby seized the moment, and stabbed the soldier to death before fleeing on a motorcycle.

Whether or not the Afghan Army can hold their ground against the Taliban in the Pashtun south, electricity is about to become a serious problem there with USAID’s failure to move the Kajaki Dam hydroelectric project forward. Kandahar City could be essentially without electricity from 2015 to 2018, according to the US military’s best-case-scenario projections.

The Taliban’s murderous goals and the continuing debacle of Kajaki, however, are relatively minor problems compared with the makings of a civil war that have been brewing over the presidential election. Afghanistan has been in a state of political and economic paralysis for the last ten months, as a tainted election threatens to draw at least four northern provinces into open rebellion against the central government.

The makeshift power-sharing solution, with Ashraf Ghani named president and his rival Abdullah Abdullah as chief executive, is a tenuous arrangement at best. Both men have different visions for Afghanistan, and it’s hard to imagine an era of compromise and consensus springing forth in Kabul.

Many soldiers and airmen I spoke with casually — at the chow hall, at the bazaar, waiting at the flight line — said they felt conflicted about the drawdown. They all see Afghanistan quickly descending into chaos as the Americans leave, perhaps even before, however they disagree about whether 50 or more years of occupation would fundamentally change anything about the place for the better.

“It’s rewarding to be able to say that we’re helping get NATO home,” said Maj. Chris Carmichael, whose unit is responsible for shipping the bulk of military equipment from Bagram Airfield to the United States. “But in my own opinion, we need to be here another 50 to 70 years. Look at South Korea and how they’re a major economic powerhouse now. How can you change a whole culture in 10 years?”

After 13 years of war, you’d be hard pressed to find a soldier who believes that a few more years of boots on the ground in Afghanistan would put the country on the road to stability, much less prosperity. Of course many young soldiers want to go out and fight there anyway, but that is not because they believe in the larger strategic gambit. Combat is the central rite of passage in America’s all-volunteer military culture, and an entire generation of soldiers before them have had that experience.

One clear winner has emerged from the murky, indecisive conflict in Afghanistan: the companies employing military contractors. Troop levels are a bit misleading, as they do not prescribe the number of contractors on the ground. At the end of 2014, Bagram Airfield will house approximately 5,000 troops, and 10,000 contractors.

President Ghani has signed a deal that permits 9,800 US soldiers to remain in Afghanistan after 2014, but soldiers already there say that number is arbitrary and that the military will hire as many contractors as they need to in order to accomplish the missions they prioritize.

Bagram Airfield is the nerve center for the military drawdown in Afghanistan, and the place where the most US troops will be stationed after 2014. The mechanics and machinery of the drawdown are impressive. The new hardened US headquarters buildings have an amazingly solid, imperious feel to them, as though they are meant to last forever as monuments to an occupation that transformed Afghanistan for the better.

They also feel more sterile than a building in Afghanistan has any right to be, insulated from both Taliban rockets and from the reality of the continuing conflict — as well as the country’s history as the graveyard of empires. The crumbling Soviet office buildings and aircraft hangars next door probably felt the same way 30 years ago.

Originalar ticle found on: Ground Truth

 

0

Development: World’s richest nations fail to meet aid pledges – report

Displaced Somali women arrive at a food distribution centre after moving to higher ground due flooding in areas around Jowhar, a town north of Somalia's capital Mogadishu, December 9, 2013. REUTERS/Omar Faruk

Displaced Somali women arrive at a food distribution centre after moving to higher ground due flooding in areas around Jowhar, a town north of Somalia’s capital Mogadishu, December 9, 2013. REUTERS/Omar Faruk

Original article found on: Thomson Reuters Foundation

Posted on October 5th, 2014 by Astrid Zweynert

* Development aid at record $131.2 billion in 2013

* Only one third went to least developed countries

* African governments fail to prioritise spending on anti-poverty measures

By Astrid Zweynert

LONDON, Oct 6 (Thomson Reuters Foundation)- – The majority of the world’s rich donor nations failed to meet their development aid pledges in 2013 and only one third of the money went to the poorest countries, a report said on Monday.

Aid by members of the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) rose 5.3 percent year-on-year to a record $131.2 billion in 2013 after two consecutive years of decline, The One Campaign said in its annual aid data report.

Only a third went to the least developed countries, most of which are in sub-Saharan Africa, despite high-level support for a new target of 50 percent of all aid to be directed towards the poorest nations, said ONE, co-founded by Irish rocker Bono to end extreme poverty.

As world leaders prepare to agree a new set of development goals next year, ONE urged both rich and poor countries to address aid shortfalls to ensure the poorest people are at the heart of a renewed global drive against poverty from 2015.

“If donors don’t step forward and target at least half of their aid to those countries that need it most, the world’s poorest people risk being left behind,” Sara Harcourt, policy director at ONE and an author of the report, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Seventeen out of 28 DAC members increased their overseas development assistance (ODA) but despite these rises aid still only accounted for 0.29 percent of their national wealth, short of a United Nations target for aid spending of 0.7 percent.

Britain became the first country among the Group of 7 industrialised nations to meet the target last year, helped by a$3.95 billion boost to its aid budget.

Japan, Germany and Norway also stepped up efforts but others such as long-standing aid champions France, Canada and Australia showed marked declines in aid budgets amid cuts in overall public spending, along with the Netherlands.

The United States, the world’s largest bilateral donor, compared poorly with other G7 states in terms of aid spending relative to national wealth, with a ratio of just 0.19 percent.

AFRICAN GOVERNMENTS MUST PLAY THEIR PART

African governments are also failing to prioritise their spending on programmes to boost the fight against extreme poverty, ONE said.

Only six out of 43 sub-Saharan African countries met their own spending goals on health, and only eight met targets on agriculture, the report found.

An additional $54.8 billion would have been mobilised for health between 2010 and 2012 if all sub-Saharan African countries had kept their promises, ONE said.

“First and foremost, public spending by African governments should be targeted towards the fight against poverty,” Sipho Moyo, the campaign’s Africa executive director said.

The report also highlighted a need to change the rules on what counts as aid, saying that since 2000 some $250 billion, or a sixth of all ODA reported by governments, did not involve a real transfer of funds to developing countries.

In 2012, for example, the cost of looking after refugees totalled $4.3 billion, or 3 percent of ODA. Administrative costs stood at $6.7 billion, or 5 percent of ODA.

Aid levels have also been given an artificial boost by including inflated valuations of debt relief, ONE said.

More stringent guidelines are also needed on which loans to developing countries count as aid, ONE said. It reckons that if these had been in place in 2012, $19 billion of loans would not have qualified as aid.

It urged the DAC countries, due to hold a senior-level meeting in Paris this week, to ensure a new definition of aid means it reaches those who need it most. (Reporting By Astrid Zweynert; Editing by Ros Russell)

Original article found on: Thomson Reuters Foundation

0

On the Media, Afghanistan: Tech Rising – The Influence of Social Media and New Technologies in Afghanistan’s Democracy

Original article on: United States Institute of Peace

 

The U.S. Institute of Peace invites you to join a discussion on the evolving role of media and new technologies in Afghanistan’s democratic process. Experts from Afghanistan will discuss how new media and technology tools influenced the recent elections and how they can be used to promote better governance in the country.

Kabul Pilot Workshop-During Practice: Female trainer is directing the trainees about making social media account on facebook. Photo Credit: Flickr/Impassion Afghanistan

Since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001, the use of social media and mobile technology has proliferated in Afghanistan and the impact on the democratic process has been astounding. There are now four telecom companies offering 3G services, boosting internet access through mobile broadband. In the most recent presidential election, all candidates used Facebook, and most had Ttwitter accounts. Social media allowed political candidates unprecedented access to young Afghans who make up 68%of the voting bloc. Mobile phone penetration is at 89% and allowed many observers to capture episodes of fraud, reducing corruption during the elections.

On Thursday October 16, USIP will host an event that will explore the evolving role of media, technology and data use in Afghanistan’s democratic process, particularly elections. Experts will discuss these topics and share important findings from a report summarizing community concerns in seven provinces around the 2014 elections and beyond.

Join the conversation on Twitter with #AFGNext.

 

Original article can be found at: United States Institute of Peace

0

Afghanistan: Afghanistan – the largest refugee repatriation in the world

Original article on: Foreign Policy

The World Bank stated in a new report released on Monday, that 5.7 million refugees have returned to Afghanistan in the past decade (Pajhwok). According to the report, the return to Afghanistan is the largest refugee repatriation effort in the world. However, the report also notes that Afghanistan is the second-largest source country of refugees and that “large numbers remain forcibly displaced.”

Car bomb kills at least four in Helmand province

A car bomb killed at least four people on Wednesday when it exploded in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand district (Pajhwok, TOLO News). Omar Zowak, a spokesman for the provincial governor, said the incident occurred at 11:00 AM near the house of Abdullah Khan, a former district police chief; Khan was wounded in the blast. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Action commences on Kabul Bank investigation

Kabul police chief Lt. Gen. Muhammad Zahir Zahir announced on Tuesday that the city’s police have initiated arrests in the Kabul Bank investigation (Pajhwok). Zahir stated: “We have received a list of 19 individuals and two of them have already been arrested.” Sher Khan Farnoud, who was the founder and chairman of Kabul Bank, is reportedly among those accused.  Zahir’s statement follows newly inaugurated Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s direction last week to reopen the case. On Tuesday, Rahmatollah Nazari, Afghanistan’s deputy attorney general announced that the Attorney General’s office would reopen the case (TOLO News).

 

–David Sterman; October 8, 2014

Original article can be found at: Foreign Policy

0

On the Media, Development: MDIF’s Impact Dashboard – A Case Study in Measuring MediaDev

Original article found on: The Source

Posted on September 30, 2014 by Mark Nelson

 

When it comes to measuring success or failure, media developers face many of the same challenges as the rest of the international development community.

Do you measure inputs, such as the amount of money that is invested in media development initiatives? Or do you track outcomes from projects—the number of people trained or the knowledge that they gained from training? Should we be looking at organizational performance of media enterprises, such as the increase in audience or reach, or their profit and loss accounts? Or should we be looking at broader impacts on society in terms of poverty reduction, improved governance or overall peace and economic growth that an independent media can help to achieve?

One creative attempt at answering thImpact dashboardese questions is the just-released Impact Dashboard 2014 from the Media Development Investment Fund. This document is a must-read for media developers because of the clear and graphic way that MDIF has tracked the results of its work.

MDIF is one of the most interesting and creative creatures of the media development field—an organization that makes loans and equity investments in, and offers technical support to promising media enterprises in developing countries. As such, it is already addressing one of the higher-level possible outcomes of media development, sustainable media enterprises. Compared with some of the early attempts at addressing problems in the media sector by simply training journalists, it is already yards ahead.

MDIF is also ahead in the results game. It looks at change at several levels, and it attempts to address the fundamental question of why high quality, independent media matters to developing societies. MDIF’s results framework measures its outputs, in terms of loans, equity investments and technical assistance; it looks at client outputs in terms of quality reporting and content production; and it suggests results at the societal level in terms of impact on reducing corruption and improving accountability.

MDIF’s solution to the results question mirrors closely the similar work carried out under the auspices of the Learning Network on Capacity Development , which is a network of development practitioners that has contributed to the last three global accords on aid effectiveness. LenCD has worked to build a stronger understanding of capacity development as more than just outputs—not just training and technical assistance—but a broader set of activities and focus on higher level results. These results can be tracked and measured at multiple levels. I have summarized one way of looking at these levels of capacity development outcomes in the diagram below.

measuring impact of media development v2

MDIF’s Impact Dashboard is an important reminder about the importance of articulating the results of media development work. As the international community gears up for a new set of international development goals to replace the Millennium Development Goals that expire next year, initiatives such as this one can help us make the case that media development can be measured, that money spent on media development is well used, and that high quality independent media really matters for developing societies.

 

Original article can be read at: The Source

Page 8 of 80« First...678910...203040...Last »