CARE, a humanitarian aid agency dedicated to ending global poverty, has seen 80 percent of its budget in Afghanistan cut as the US prepares for its withdrawal from the region, the New York Times reported.
The organization has had to fire 400 of its 900 employees in Afghanistan, and was forced to shut down the education program it ran for 21,000 children in remote areas. Around 5,000 students were unable to find alternatives, Jennifer Rowell, head of advocacy for CARE, told the New York Times. Though some schools were turned over to the Afghan Ministry of Education, it could not take all of them.
The United States, which provides two-thirds of the total budget for development assistance in Afghanistan, sliced its contribution to $2 billion from $4 billion in the 2011 fiscal year, the Times reported. The 2012 budget may be cut further. CARE is not the only organization feeling the strain; Mercy Corps and The International Rescue Committee have also faced sharp cuts.
On Monday, Afghan president Hamid Karzai requested 10 more years of aid from allies at an international conference in Bonn, Germany.
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As 10,000 US troops prepare to withdraw by the end of December and the second stage of Afghanistan's transition plan begins, some have made comparisons to the Soviet withdrawal in 1989, which led to state collapse and civil war, The Financial Times reported. Afghanistan is set to take over security in 24 provinces or cities — areas accounting for half the country’s population — so that US forces can be withdrawn by 2014, The New York Times reported.
“There is a fear that all this could be cut and Afghanistan could be left alone as it was in the ’90s, which will have very bad consequences this time,” Hashim Mayar, a special adviser to the Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief, which represents many of the major relief groups in Afghanistan, told the New York Times. “What we have gained should not be lost.”
The United States "intends to stay the course with our friends in Afghanistan," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said at the conference. Some aid agencies have also said that less money pouring into Afghanistan might be a good thing, as the large sums that other countries initially supplied could not be spent fast enough.
Total foreign aid to Afghanistan in 2010 was equal to the country’s entire gross domestic product, $15.7 billion, which the World Bank said in a recent report “cannot be sustained,” The New York Times reported. The report predicted that 90 percent of that aid will be gone by 2018.