Despite more than $15 billion of aid pumped into Afghanistan since U.S.-led and Afghan forces toppled the Taliban in 2001, many Afghans still suffer levels of poverty rarely seen outside sub-Saharan Africa.
"The development process has to date been too centralised, top-heavy and insufficient," said a report by Oxfam.
By far the biggest donor, the United States approved a further $6.4 billion in Afghan aid this year, but the funds are spent in ways that are "ineffective or inefficient", Oxfam said.
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) allocates close to half its funds to the five largest U.S. contractors in Afghanistan.
"Too much aid is absorbed by profits of companies and sub-contractors, on non-Afghan resources and on high expatriate salaries and living costs," the report said.
A full-time expatriate consultant can cost up to $500,000 a year, Oxfam said.
Spending on development is dwarfed by that spent on fighting the Taliban. The U.S. military is spending $65,000 a minute in Afghanistan, Oxfam said.
Violent incidents are up at least 20 percent since last year, according to U.N. estimates, and have spread northwards to many areas previously considered safe.
More than 200 civilians have been killed in at least 130 Taliban suicide bombs and at least 1,200 civilians have been killed overall this year — about half of them in operations by Afghan and international troops.
Oxfam called on the 50,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan to take greater care not to hurt civilians, particularly in air strikes. The lower number of troops in Afghanistan than in Iraq — less than a third as many in a much bigger country with a larger population — leads to a greater reliance on air power.
There are four times as many air strikes in Afghanistan as in Iraq, Oxfam said. <Common Dreams>
Meanwhile, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been very very generous to private contractors. Here's the top 100 private contractors, 2004-2006. In first place: KBR at $16 billion (2002-2004 they made $11 billion. Next on the list, DynCorp International at 1.8 billion.
Funny (not so much in a ha-ha way), more than $20 billion in contracts went to foreign companies whose identities (at least so far) are impossible to determine. The largest of these contracts is worth more than $6 billion, for "miscellaneous items".