Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Threat to Brit-built Afghan schools

Too many schools and health centres have been built by British troops in Afghanistan, a report suggests

Schools and health centres built by British troops in Afghanistan could be closed because the country's government cannot afford to run them, it has been reported.

A report written this year said too many centres had been built as the UK worked to stabilise Afghanistan and rebuild the shattered components of civil society.

But the Guardian said the report revealed too many facilities were built without consultation with the Afghan government or consideration of how they would be operated and funded long term.

The Government said spending priorities were a matter for Afghan president Hamid Karzai's government but that Britain had made commitments to continue aid funding at the current levels until 2017.

One official told the Guardian: "Of course we built too much. We didn't think about how the Afghans would pay for it.

"But it was understandable. Nobody is blaming the military. We wanted to show them what we could do for them, but without regard for sustainability."

Catriona Laing, who as head of Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Helmand is the most senior Nato civilian in the province, told the paper: "The key is that we are still here and we can still help the government think through which of those bits of infrastructure are really critical to maintain.

"Helmand is one of the biggest provinces, yet people are still willing to travel to receive better quality services. I think the idea that you need in every district centre, even the really remote ones, a school, a clinic, a justice centre ... it's not all about quantity, it's much more about quality.

"My expectation is that there will be some consolidation. That is sensible to do. It will be much more important in some areas to maintain the service than in others."

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: "It is for the Afghanistan government to prioritise what support they can send to Helmand and the 33 other provinces. The UK government committed at the Tokyo conference in July 2012 to maintain current levels of support to Afghanistan until at least 2017."