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Furthermore, as if nothing has happened 

The dilemmas that arise when one is to be a good ally and at the same time promote democracy and more prosperity cast long shadows.


On 10 January, the Minister of Foreign Affairs reported on Norway's Afghanistan efforts and the Godal Committee's NOU 2016: 8, «A good ally – Norway in Afghanistan 2001–2014». The statement was subsequently criticized, both in the media and by Storting politicians, among other things for not addressing and problematizing a number of issues that were put under the microscope by the Godal committee. Among the most disturbing is the practice where decisions about Norway's participation in war and international operations are made based on closed orienteringis in an enlarged Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee – a practice that weakens democratic control of our military forces. The closest we came to any admission of wrongdoing was the following: "We have gained experience and lessons that we take with us."

The Afghans fear that what has been achieved in the last 15 years will weather.

What we miss from the Foreign Minister is clarity around which experiences they have gained and what they carry on with them. The fact that progress in key areas such as health, education and gender equality cannot be used to cover how the overall military involvement in Afghanistan has negatively affected the country. Nor can it be used to draw attention away from principled issues related to Norwegian participation in international military operations.

Lack of court settlement. In Afghanistan, aid funds were used to achieve security policy goals. Security interests were the starting point for the international entry into Afghanistan, and continued to provide guidelines for the efforts in the years that followed. The money followed the soldiers and was used as part of a military strategy to gain the goodwill of the population, the so-called "COIN strategy", which was approved by NATO in 2009. Aid projects were to ensure support among the local population and reduce rebel groups' local support and support. The Godal Committee writes about this: «Military considerations have laid down decisive guidelines for state-building and development assistance. The international coalition's strategy for counter-terrorism and insurgency gave priority to short-term security goals. This built up local power structures associated with abuse of power and corruption. " This strategy led to corruption and weak aid results. Real policy objectives on stability were given priority over justice and human rights. There was never a court settlement after the wars that had already ravaged the country for two decades. Instead, the country passed an amnesty law in 2007 that stripped the warlords of all responsibility for war crimes committed against the Afghan people before 2001, provided they supported the government's reconciliation process.

Belief in the future at the bottom level. In his statement, the Foreign Minister emphasized that developments in Afghanistan are moving in the right direction in several areas, and emphasized in particular the development of democracy, civil society and the free media. What has been achieved for development, human rights and state-building in Afghanistan has been achieved as a result of long-term approaches and a recognition that this takes time. We must take this with us further. Nevertheless, there are several studies that point in a negative direction. Last year, the Asia Foundation launched its twelfth annual survey, which addresses Afghans' thoughts and attitudes on, among other things, the security situation, the economy, the position of women in society, the justice sector, trust in the authorities and corruption. The report is gloomy reading. Since the Asia Foundation launched its annual survey in 2004, Afghans have never had as little faith in the future as in 2016. Afghans are more insecure, more dissatisfied with the economy and have lower confidence in the authorities in 2016 than ever since 2004. They fear that achieved in the last 15 years will weather.

For the Afghans to regain their faith in the future, a long-term perspective on development and state-building is necessary. This work must be owned by the Afghans themselves, with support from Norway and other international partners. There are large and demanding tasks ahead. Among other things, civil society and grassroots organizations must be strengthened so that they can hold local and central authorities responsible for development in their local communities. Government tasks such as education and health must be made sustainable and aid-independent.

Emergency assistance with costs. Therefore, it is right and good that the Norwegian authorities have committed themselves to continue to be a supporter and partner for Afghanistan. The assistance will be continued at the current level until 2020, a total of NOK 700 million annually. However, the structure of development assistance has changed since 2015. Long-term aid has been reduced in favor of an increase in humanitarian aid.
In 2015, NOK 516 million of the regional allocation to Asia was channeled to long-term aid to Afghanistan. In the same year, NOK 125 million was channeled to emergency aid and humanitarian aid to the country. The accounts for 2016 are not yet available, but we know that the regional allocation for Asia, the largest budget item for long-term aid to Afghanistan, was cut by NOK 193 million in the budget for 2016. The cut is maintained in 2017. How much of this cut is taken from the allocation to Afghanistan, the government did not want to give in to direct questions from parliamentary representative Bård Vegar Solhjell. Nevertheless, there is a high probability that the cut will largely affect Afghanistan, which is by far the largest recipient of Norwegian development assistance in Asia. At the same time, the government more than doubled the humanitarian aid to Afghanistan for 2016. When the humanitarian budget increases at the same time as the long-term budget is tightened within the same total budget framework, the government makes a significant shift towards more emergency aid at the expense of long-term assistance.

Individuals. The government is making this shift in development assistance at the same time as the OECD in its 2016 report on vulnerable states recommends more predictability and long-term perspective. We are surprised that the government defies the recommendations of the OECD, one of the foremost professional communities we have in vulnerable states, at a time when the government is working on a new strategy for these states. There is a great need for humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, but this must not be at the expense of long-term aid that will contribute to good governance, a diverse civil society and security, all of which are key prerequisites for poverty reduction and economic development. The OECD is clear in its recommendation. The results in vulnerable states are predictable, flexible and long-term assistance that addresses the underlying causes of vulnerability. With the budget for 2016 and this year's budget, the government has planned for more firefighting and less long-term and predictable assistance to Afghanistan. What risk assessments have been made prior to this turnaround? What consequences will the cuts to long-term development have for rural communities in Afghanistan? Norway is one of the largest donors to this country. Cuts in long-term development assistance will have consequences for individuals.

the government has called for more firefighting and less long-term and predictable assistance to Afghanistan.

Little willingness to reflect. In Afghanistan, alliance building and relations with NATO and the United States were the real goal of Norway's efforts. The Godal Committee's report points to the unfortunate consequences of subjecting development and state-building objectives to security policy guidelines. We fear that this is a trend we will see intensified in the future, when security policy is increasingly emphasized in Norwegian foreign policy. We call on the government to be more open about the dilemmas that arise when one is to be both a good ally and at the same time aim to promote democracy and reduce poverty. These contradictions cast long shadows – also over Norwegian aid results in Afghanistan.
In the mandate for the Godal Committee, the government commissioned lessons learned for planning, organizing and implementing Norway's future contribution to international operations. The report is now available. The Minister of Foreign Affairs has so far not shown a willingness to openly reflect and learn. NOU 2016: 8 will now be considered by the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee in the Storting. We urge the Storting to give us a broad, public debate on Norway's participation and role in international operations. The Storting should in particular consider whether we have sufficient democratic control over the use of Norway's military forces, as well as the extent to which aid funds are to be used to achieve security policy goals.

Henriksen and Kjølseth work in
Afghanistan Committee.

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