prestige contruction: now renting and digging

From an article by Tom Blackwell in the National Post, basically on the theme of governmental conspicuous waste in the Afghanistan nation building project. There was was no illusion that Canada was going to reinvent the wheel, their largesse simply to respect an international engagement. The heavy cost is not the buildings but their maintenance, staffing and ongoing activities which in political terms could have been a real scandal. …

( see link at end)…Hampered by an increasingly hostile work environment and a bureaucratic culture that discouraged innovation, Canada’s aid blitz in Afghanistan seemed at times “divorced from reality” in the war-ravaged country, concludes a previously secret review of the $1.5-billion program.

It and other audits of the Canadian International Development Agency’s huge involvement in Kandahar and elsewhere in Afghanistan depict a well-meaning drive for results the government could boast about — a push that faced “intractable” security problems, political pressures and the “vaguely envisaged” challenge of building a new nation.

—On 24 November 2011, the Government of Afghanistan awarded a Canadian mining company, Kilo Goldmines, approximately 25 percent of the stake to develop the massive Hajigak iron deposit in Bamiyan Afghanistan. A consortium of Indian companies won the other 75 percent of the development.
The Hajigak deposit – the largest iron deposit in Asia and possibly the world – is “truly significant on a global scale”.
Developing Hajigak among approximately 1,500 other geological deposits in Afghanistan is significant not only economically, but also geopolitically in the global battle for control of Eurasia.
Investments measured in the tens of billions of dollars are necessary to develop the Hajigak mine and the transportation, communications, and energy infrastructure needed to support it. This is big business at work at its biggest scale working in tandem with the most powerful and wealthiest governments in the world.
With the announcement that a Canadian mining company will begin to reap some of the dividends of Canada’s significant military investment in Afghanistan, …Read More: image:

The reports drafted for CIDA by two outside consultants seem written to avoid offending federal officials, and do actually praise many of the agency’s achievements. But the diplomatic phrasing cannot hide fundamental concerns about Canada’s ambitious development program as it unfolded.

Nipa Banerjee, who headed the agency’s Afghanistan operation from 2003 to 2006, said some of the comments reflect what she knows about Canadian projects in Kandahar.

“All the projects have failed. None of them have been successful,”said Ms. Banerjee, now a professor in the University of Ottawa’s school of international development. “I think we went into Kandahar to increase our international profile … rather than thinking about the interests of the people of Kandahar. It was too much politicized and militarized and securitized, and as a result we ended up with failure.”Despite the hard work, courage and sacrifices of civilian and military personnel, Canada’s development efforts in Kandahar province have proven a “total” waste, she argued. …( continued after break)…

—Massoud, a warrior who maintained his humanity. (Photograph by Reza Deghati)
“If there had never been a war,” he said, “I would have been a very good architect.”
Ahmad Shah Massoud, a renowned guerrilla fighter of his generation, left behind a mixed legacy after his death on September 9, 2001. A moderate amongst the leaders of jihad who grew extremer every day, few close to him would question the personal dignity of the commander. His humanity remained intact despite being devoured by the beast of war for more than half of his life. However, what taints his legacy is the involvement of his men in the darkest period of Afghanistan’s history—or Kabul’s history, rather.—Read More:

—- It’s quite a chunk of cash of course, but in reality, the approach of throwing up some buildings and making some infrastructure renovations was the safest route to go. After the local leaders have some of that manna drip through their fingers, how much can really be left to help those on the bottom of the pile. A good percent ( apparently 60%) of the aid is tied to Canadian companies merchandise, and as usual, there is a component of “debt relief” which effevtively is a form of subsidy to Canadian financial players at the taxpayers expense. But “aid” has been a great leverage to get into the Afghan rocks and minerals game; that is the real value of the mission. Democracy is probably the least desired objective. —–

…One of the reviews obtained by the National Post under access-to-information legislation notes that a key goal of Canada’s development program was to bolster the capacity of Afghans to improve their own lot and carry on rebuilding long after foreign nations had left. If the aim is to have “Afghan girls and boys actually learning in functional schools,” for instance, there needs to be local school committees to monitor results, not just a dr

to erect buildings, it said….

…“The impression is of a major planning effort, meticulously documented, but divorced from reality,” said the consultants. “Artificially maintaining forward progress on a few indicators so that there is something positive to report (eg more training, more equipment, more schools built) is much like pushing a rope, and may be actually counterproductive if it ignores deeper institutional problems.”…

…The agency was unable to respond to questions about the reviews by deadline on Friday. But in a report to Parliament this March, the government said that despite the challenges, Canada had played a “vital” role in rebuilding Afghanistan and made “important progress.”

—KABUL—When the Taliban ruled Afghanistan in the 1990s, Maulvi Qalamuddin headed the Committee to Protect Virtue and Prevent Vice, the religious police that shut down girls’ schools, beat up men with insufficiently long beards and arrested those in possession of music or video tapes.
Nowadays, the 60-year-old Taliban cleric is on a different mission: He is overseeing a network of schools that teach reading, writing and math to thousands of girls in his home province of Logar, an insurgent hotbed just south of Kabul.—Read More:

“At every turn, our soldiers and civilian professionals in Afghanistan showed the highest level of dedication to the challenges they faced,” said Prime Minister Stephen Harper in a foreword to the report. “Their immeasurable moral commitment to this mission has improved the lives of the Afghan people. They have made Canada and Canadians proud.”

Of 44 development goals this country set in 2008, 33 have been met, it said. Those include building 52 schools and training 3,000 teachers in Kandahar, repairing the province’s Dahla Dam and Arghandab irrigation system so that an extra 30,000 hectares more land could soon be irrigated, and improving the rule of law in Kandahar, said the report.

Ms. Banerjee said her sources tell a different story. All three of Canada’s main priority projects in Kandahar have been a bust, or of limited success, she charged. The plan to refurbish the Dahla irrigation dam in the north of Kandahar province never was finished, leaving farmers’ fields almost as dry as before, she said. The U.S. Corps of Engineers has stated it will take over and repair the dam, the Canadians having fixed many of the irrigation canals south of it. Many of the schools built with Canadian money appear in disrepair, unused or under-used, she said. And the program to vaccinate children for polio was actually carried out by UNICEF with Canadian funding, and has nevertheless failed to erase Kandahar city’s status as “the world polio capital.”

—When the troops will leave, everybody knows the Taliban will get back to the power because they will be close again. That’s why I try to shoot different things always, because I am a little sick of the war. The war is always the same. People go crazy and kill each other. It’s more difficult to find other stories. So I try to focus on that now. Of course I record the part of war, because that’s part of the real life in these countries, but I try not to focus on that. It’s a part of the story.—Read More:

Prof. Banerjee oversaw the CIDA program in Afghanistan — doling out $100-million a year with no staff to help her — until Canada’s decision in 2006 to take over the military and development responsibility for Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban. Canada had a choice between it and Herat, a much more peaceful and prosperous province in the west of Afghanistan, she said. ( continued after break)..

—-Besides, The Afghans know they are being colonized and accommodated, the slippery slope to parasitism and dependence; the blue on green killings, the destruction of aid projects is more acts of resistance than of practical benefit, but it has no doubt left an influence over the impact of modern agriculture, water resource management, basic plumbing and electricity, internet, etc. that was severely limited in many cases and regions prior to 9-11.—

…Prof. Banerjee admits that she recommended moving into Kandahar, feeling that it had far greater needs and, at the time, did not seem particularly unsafe. She said she now realizes the insurgency had nevertheless been building strength and, in retrospect, believes Kandahar was the wrong province for Canada, its relatively small military unable to curb the mounting violence.

In the first half of the 2000s, Canada’s contribution to Afghanistan was mostly in the form of contributions to programs run by the Afghan government, filtered through the World Bank, and most have been a success, she said.

…Each of the documents notes that the smattering of civilian officials who arrived in the country to implement the programs encountered an increasingly bloody insurgency.

Stabilizing and rebuilding Kandahar is not like “laying the railroad across Canadian prairies,” said the April, 2009, report, noting that insurgents had turned many of the areas targeted for development into conflict zones that were “strongly, even violently antiethical” to the national government and its foreign backers….

“This sets up an intractable development dilemma,” said a 2008 report. “The monitoring of progress and performance — key to credibility in Afghanistan and accountability in Canada — is literally death defying.”

“Insurgents are living among the people as a fish in the sea [in Chairman Mao’s famous image], while the government and its international supporters are at best treading water,” the document said. “Is the Canadian mission doing enough to understand the context in which it works and the actors with whom it is engaged?”…

…“It is crucial to understand that there is a built-in disconnect between … the donors’ appetite for hard evidence that their money is producing the intended results and, on the other hand, the vagueness of state building, characterized by false starts, dead ends and trial-and-error innovation.” Read More:

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