Having defended aid a lot recently, I should also emphasise that I also think aid can fail. There are some tasks that are simply beyond it, and others that are beyond it in some circumstances. And if it’s given poorly, it will almost certainly not help.
I’m no expert on Afghanistan but this must read piece by Nir Rosen and Marika Theros in OpenDemocracy gives what seems to be a good example of (some) aid making things worse rather than better. Admittedly in an incredibly difficult environment. But I think that it’s likely that the way much aid in Afghanistan has been given, and the overreach in terms of objectives for it, has hindered rather than helped things there (with the caveat again that I’m most definitely not an expert on the place and so could be wrong in my assessment). From the article:
First, the international community must recognize that the money it is pumping into Afghanistan is a primary source of corruption and conflict. Despite their very real needs, most Afghans consulted call for a reduction in aid to levels within the absorptive capacity of the country, because wasted aid assistance fuels corruption and predation. Equally important, the international community must ensure that aid produces tangible results on the ground and not simply be measured by the metrics of money spent within the fiscal year and units of production. The number of school rooms built is much less important than the number of children who complete the school year.