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Assessing the Contribution of International Actors in Afghanistan

Working Paper 7

Working Paper 7

Jan Koehler, Christoph Zürcher – 2007

Welche Wirkung zeigt die Arbeit internationaler Sicherheits- und Entwicklungsakteure in Afghanistan? Wie bewertet die afghanische Bevölkerung die erzielten Resultate? Wie hoch ist die Legitimität, welche internationale Akteure bei der ländlichen Bevölkerung genießen? Wodurch sehen sich die Afghanen bedroht? Zur Klärung dieser und weiterer Fragen will diese Studie beitragen. Sie wurde von einem Forscherteam der Freien Universität Berlin, Sonderforschungsbereich 700, in Kooperation mit dem Bundesministerium für wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit und Entwicklung, Referat Evaluierung, durchgeführt.

This paper is based on a representative survey among 2034 households in North East Afghanistan, conducted in spring 2007. The main results of the survey can be summarized as follows: Many Western observers claim that the security situation in North Afghanistan is rapidly deteriorating. We find that this sentiment is not shared by the majority of the rural population. An overwhelming majority thinks that security has very much increased over the last two years. Most Afghans credit foreign forces as well as the Afghan government with this progress. Despite substantial progress in security one fifth of all households feel that their physical security is threatened. They feel that the main threat does not stem from Taliban or other armed forces but from organized crime. Five percent also said that they feel threatened by foreign forces. International development agencies are widely credited by Afghans for bringing along positive and widespread changes in basic services for many communities, most notably with regard to drinking water, roads and schooling. Progress in other fields seems to be slower. Afghans tend to think that international development agencies have had little impact on progress in the agricultural sector and in improving access to electricity. Afghans also support activities of international actors that are usually associated with western values which are often seen as being at odds with Afghan values. Even in a rural context there is much support for state schooling, girls’ enrollment in schools, and off-farm job opportunities for men and women. Despite these positive assessments of foreign involvement, many Afghans remain cautious. 43% of households thought that the presence of foreign troops in general posed a threat to the local way of life and Islamic values in the community, and 21% of respondents thought that foreign developmental aid threatens the local way of life and Islamic values. Taken together, this is still a supportive environment for development cooperation, because most Afghans seem to value the concrete benefits of the foreign presence, despite widespread cultural or ideological wariness. We find statistical evidence that development aid has a positive impact on attitudes towards the peace building mission. Communities that have broadly profited from development aid show greater support for international actors and their objectives. Development aid, however, does not lead to a lower threat perception. Levels of received aid do not influence the levels of threats that people perceive, indicating that development aid per se has little impact on objective security threats. Threat perceptions differ between districts. People in Aliabad feel more threatened, and they fear the Taliban. People in Imam Sahib feel least threatened, and here the main threat is, as in other districts, organized crime. We also found no evidence that development aid has so far increased Afghan state capacities in the perception of respondents. The state is virtually absent as a problem solver and service provider. Most Afghans think that the state has not contributed to the provision of basic services and does not look after the needs of the rural population. This perception is hardly affected by levels of received development aid.

Working Paper 7 "Assessing the Contribution of International Actors in Afghanistan"
SFB 700, Teilprojekt C9 (ehem. Teilprojekt C1)
Teilprojekt C1
1863-6896 (Print), 1864-1024 (Internet)