Great FT column by Clive Crook
The forthcoming civilian surge .... Most westerners in Afghanistan live inside a security bubble. If they leave their compounds at all – and many never do – they drive around in armoured Toyota Land Cruisers from one fortified location to the next. Again, the perception is that the foreigners’ security is all important, whereas ordinary Afghans can take their chances. Aside from their servants and guards, the foreigners mix mainly with each other. Among the Afghans I met, it was a universal perception that the western aid effort is feeding mainly itself, not the country. I heard many anecdotes to bear this out.
One dreads a civilian surge of highly paid westerners, spending all their time behind barricades in meetings with other westerners, drawing up work plans and draping themselves in red tape while dirt-poor Afghans look on in dismay. This would be worse than useless. Money, with strings, yes. Genuine technical expertise, where needed, yes. But for heaven’s sake spare Afghanistan a new surge of the self-perpetuating, self-consuming international aid bureaucracy.