European governments - and particularly the UK government - should encourage peace talks between the Afghan government and insurgency groups such as the Taliban to find a way out of the current stalemate, according to Christian Aid.
In a submission to the House of Commons International Development Committee, Christian Aid said the government should explore new avenues for tackling the insurgency beyond the military option.
The current conflict in Afghanistan, which is the poorest country in Asia, is making it difficult to do meaningful development work. Limited access to clean water, healthcare, electricity, housing and employment remain pressing problems.
In Afghanistan, the Department for International Development’s (DFID) objectives may clash with short-term military objectives and it needs to work with other government departments to counter these, for instance by ensuring that international humanitarian law is upheld during UK military operations to minimise civilian deaths.
Christian Aid also calls on the UK government to undertake a full review of the mandate for its Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) in Afghanistan - special military units that provide security and help with reconstruction in unstable nations.
‘We remain concerned by the ongoing involvement of the military in aid delivery. The development value of these projects is unproven and the use of the military in this way continues to have an impact on the perceived neutrality of humanitarian and development aid agencies,’ the submission says.
Christian Aid also cautions against a ‘knee-jerk’ response by states involved in Afghanistan to the current problem of opium poppy cultivation. The focus of international aid should be on tackling the root causes of production, notably the lack of alternative ways for farmers to earn a living.
Above all countries should concentrate on strengthening the legal agricultural sector in opium-producing provinces – since agriculture is the main source of employment for Afghans – and helping the Afghan government to tackle drug trafficking, which is where most of the profit is made.
Christian Aid has been working in Afghanistan since 1986 and has built up considerable expertise on rural development and bolstering civil society.