The impending withdrawal of U.S. and other foreign combat forces from Afghanistan means more than a loss of firepower. International aid is also on the decline because of donor fatigue and fears of deteriorating security after nearly 12 years of war.
Worried about losing hard-won gains, many Afghan and international aid organizations are racing to finish projects or find new sources of funding to provide basic services such as health care, education and electricity that the weak central government has been unable to deliver.
The money that has flowed into Afghanistan since the 2001 U.S. invasion that ousted the Taliban and their al-Qaida allies has led to drastic improvements, with nearly 8 million children, some 40 percent of them girls, enrolled in school — up from just over 1 million when girls were banned from school under the Taliban.
Afghan street children are packed into classrooms, raising their hands to answer math questions and bending their heads over art projects as part of a program funded by the European Union. But the money is about to disappear after a four-year grant expires next month, and the Afghan government isn’t ready to fill the gap. That leaves thousands of poor children who spend most of their days hawking goods on the street poised to lose their only access to an education.
The U.S. Agency for International Development in Afghanistan has built or refurbished more than 680 schools, and child mortality has been halved with improved health facilities and other services.