KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghanistan will remain dependent on international donors and foreign help even after a peace deal with the Taliban is reached, a U.S. watchdog said Thursday.
The warning by Washington's Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction, or SIGAR, which monitors billions of dollars in U.S. aid to the country, came in a new report identifying main high-risk areas for Afghanistan.
John F. Sopko, head of SIGAR, urged policymakers to plan for the "day after," saying a peace agreement won't automatically resolve Afghanistan's many crises.
"Should peace come, if that peace is to be sustainable, it will come at an additional price that only external donors can afford," Sopko said, according to a statement emailed to The Associated Press ahead of the report's release.
The report said main points of concern include widespread insecurity, underdeveloped civil policing capability, endemic corruption, sluggish economy, the Taliban-run narcotics trade and threats to women's rights.
Over the past months, the Trump administration has stepped up efforts to resolve Afghanistan's 17-year war — America's longest conflict — and U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has held several rounds of peace talks with the Taliban, with both sides citing progress in the negotiations.
But despite the talks, the Taliban stage near-daily attacks on Afghan forces, inflicting staggering casualties, and now hold sway over half of the country. Also, the insurgents refuse to talk directly with the government in Kabul, considering it a U.S. puppet.
If a peace deal is struck, SIGAR said another concern would be the reintegration of as many as 60,000 heavily armed Taliban fighters and their families back into Afghan society.
Donor countries are expected to finance approximately 51 percent of Afghanistan's 2019 government spending of $5 billion. Yet the Afghan government's capabilities are generally weak and it often lacks the capacity to manage and account for donor funds, the report said.