U.S. Navy photo by Lt. j.g. Matthew Stroup

USAID: Aid Groups Also Stuck Waiting for Afghan Troop Agreement

The military is not the only group waiting for Afghanistan’s council of elders to approve a post-2014 security agreement. The top United States development aid official said on Friday that the international aid community also is waiting for Afghanistan’s loya jirga to approve the bilateral security agreement governing U.S. troops beyond 2014,

“Look I think there are broad ranges of international and local afghan partners on the ground that have been a big part of this effort,” said U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Rajiv Shah, in an interview with Defense One. “Yeah, they are all waiting for what will happen here. And it is an important moment.”

For more than a decade, U.S.-led counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan has included a massive nation-building operation requiring close cooperation between the military and humanitarian organizations. The two groups rankled feathers in the aid world by breaking through the traditional firewall between them and working together for Afghan development. Troops and aid workers have relied on each other to do everything from reopening the Afghan education system to girls to renewing agricultural markets and building basic infrastructure.

(Read more: Will Corruption Force U.S. Troops to Abandon Afghanistan?)

“This has been an ongoing civ-mil effort in Afghanistan,” Shah said, ticking off from memory the litany of development projects in Afghanistan, which regardless still is considered one of the least developed countries on earth, but none of which would be possible without the massive security the international coalition of troops have provided. “We are very hopeful that security and development go hand-in-hand in the future.”

While security watchers wait for the Obama administration to determine U.S. troop numbers in Afghanistan for the coming years, and evaluate the state of Afghan National Security Forces charged with tamping down violence, Afghan development remains the focus for USAID and watchdog groups. It’s unclear that the international community of donors, or Afghanistan itself, will live up to the billion-dollar economic commitments made last year at a Tokyo conference of donors and at the NATO summit. Meanwhile, the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, or SIGAR, argues that without foreign troops, most of the country will not be secure enough for aid work to continue.

Already NATO countries have started planning for next year’s heads-of-state summit in Great Britain, but for now, all eyes remain on the loya jirga, and whether Afghan President Hamid Karzai will back the agreement if they do.

“This is an important time,” said Shah.