KABUL (Pajhwok): The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Director for Afghanistan says their assistance with the war-torn country would continue beyond a peace agreement.
Dr. Tina Dooley-Jones, in an exclusive interview with Pajhwok Afghan News, said her organization has been working in various sectors throughout Afghanistan over the last two decades.
She said USAID assistance covered health, education, empowering women and women entrepreneurs, empowering civil society, capacity building of government workers, and support for democracy, elections, parliament, electricity and energy sector, agriculture, business, chambers of commerce, and trade by air corridors.
In response to a question regarding integrity of their assistance being spent in Afghanistan, she said they always supervised their projects closely.
She acknowledged corruption in Afghanistan, but said they always tried to ensure the money of American tax payers was spent properly. “Whenever there is a word of corruption in our assistance, we immediately act and launch an investigation,” Tina added.
She said Afghanistan corruption was now a discussion at conferences of international donors and international assistance was now based on the condition of fighting the menace.
About European Union’s previous statement that their assistance would be effectively conditioned if the Taliban return, Tina said they also had the same stance about foreign aid spending in Afghanistan.
However, she said intra-Afghan talks were led and owned by the Afghans and future assistance to the country would also be conditions based.
“This assistance depend on tackling corruption and the protection of human rights, women’s rights, and minority rights, and the protection of achievements made over the past 19 years,” Tina said.
“We should see progress in all these areas and achievements should not face any risks in the future,” she added.
She said both sides of negotiations in Qatar should listen to the demands of the international community and take them into account in their agreements if they want their future assistance.
In response to a question regarding USAID assistance for Afghanistan after a possible agreement between the Afghan government and Taliban, she said, “Our programs would probably change a little bit, not much, but we will look into the situation after the agreement. We will consider priorities of Afghans and their government.”
However, Tina said it was still early to discuss a post-peace situation as the process may take a long time and even years.
She said that if Afghanistan reached a peace agreement, USAID would still see if the situation was fragile and would design their programs which best suited the situation.
However, she insisted that there should be ceasefire before an agreement was reached so development activities went forward.
To a question regarding capacity building after an agreement, she said, “We have worked a lot on the capacity building area on national, provincial and district levels from the past.”
She said that after a peace agreement, Afghans should be provided with developments that could positively change their lives.
Tina said that Covid-19 pandemic has largely affected their activities compared to the conflict in Afghanistan.
She said USAID had also assisted Afghan Ministry of Public Health in various areas during the coronavirus outbreak and provided 100 ventilators and trained technical health personnel besides other support.
USAID has trained 630 doctors, nurses and midwives in using ventilators and in other areas in a number of provinces including Kabul since November 19 this year, she said.
Tina said the organization would continue its training program for the next three months.
She said that $39 million extra fund was taken from Washington during the Covid-19 time in order to control the pandemic in Afghanistan.
She rejected reports that USAID funds were distributed by Taliban in areas they controlled. She said the US and UN restrictions still applied on the Taliban and they did not distribute their assistance to such groups.
“After we are assured that the assistance is distributed to the entitled people in Taliban areas, then we let the program be implemented by our partners there”, she said.
“The Taliban are never directly assisted, it is not right when the Taliban take credit for some aid programs,” she said.
Tina is optimistic about the future of Afghanistan and peace and said Afghans now entered a historical phase.
She said both parties have for the first time started direct negotiations and the US and the international community supported the process for its success.
She said that $3.3 billion assistance to Afghanistan in the Geneva conference proved that the international community stood by Afghans’ side.
Dr. Tina Dooley-Jones previously served as the USAID Afghanistan Deputy Mission Director and before that as the Mission Director of Kenya and East Africa Mission.
She also served in Zimbabwe, South Africa, Namibia and Morocco. Dr. Dooley-Jones received a Ph.D. and Master’s degree in City and Regional Planning and a Master’s degree in Architecture from the University of Pennsylvania, and a Bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College.