This study was commissioned by the Australian Council for International Development (AC FID) Afghanistan Working Group (AWG) to provide a clearer overview of the key aid modalities used by the Australian Government in Afghanistan. Particular attention was paid to aid delivered by the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), and the Australian Defence Force (ADF) as part of its counterinsurgency efforts in Uruzgan Province. The study was carried out from May – July 2010.
Australia's engagement in Afghanistan dates largely from 11 September 2001. Prior to this and dating back to 1994, the Australian aid portfolio was minimal and ADF involvement was limited to mine clearance activities through the United Nations. After 9/11, and due to its role as a major non-North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO ) ally and an ally of the US through the AN ZUS Treaty, Australia supported US and NATO led interventions in Afghanistan. Aid and defence spending increased significantly in 2006 with the deployment of ADF personnel to Uruzgan Province to support both military and stabilisation/reconstruction efforts.
Currently Australia supports the revised Obama Administration's strategy for Afghanistan that has seen a strategic shift in military command of NATO -International Security Assistance Force (ISA F), with a changed emphasis and direction of military operations towards a counter-insurgency (CO IN) 'clear, hold and build' campaign. The central principle in CO IN strategy is to protect the population, reverse the Taliban's momentum and create the space to develop security and governance capacity in Afghanistan.
Australia is currently the largest non-NATO contributor of military support to Afghanistan and the 11th largest overall ISA F contributor. The Defence budget, at approximately AUD$1.2 billion, is estimated to be ten times that of the Australian aid budget. A key objective of the ADF is to train and mentor the Afghan National Army's 4th Brigade as part of the broader international effort to build Afghan Army capacity.
The ADF, alongside the Dutch1, have engaged in a wide range of reconstruction projects since 2006 through their Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT s), the Australian led Reconstruction Task Force (RT F), the Mentoring Reconstruction Task Force (MRT F) and more recently the Mentoring Task Force (MTF). Australia also allocates a significant contribution to the Afghan National Army Trust Fund to help raise, train and sustain Afghan forces to address their country's own security challenges.
The Australian Government has also enlarged its diplomatic and development footprint in Afghanistan. A new Australian Embassy has been established in Kabul and the Australian civilian presence has grown. This is an important step in instituting new leadership structures that better represent a whole-of-government approach to Afghanistan.
In the 2010-11 Federal Budget, Afghanistan is the fourth largest recipient of Australian Official Development Assistance (ODA) ($123 million) and the AusAID Afghanistan country program receives $106 million. This is up from around $70 million in 2009-10. Australia allocates a significant portion of its aid assistance to the World Bank administered Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ART F).
In 2009, nine per cent of Australia's ODA funding was allocated to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC ) and its affiliates, and 14 per cent to Australian and international non-government organisation (NGO) efforts. Less than one per cent of ODA funding was allocated directly to Afghan NGOs. While the proportion of funding channelled through NGOs has increased in the last two years, a majority of funding continues to be allocated largely through the World Bank, the United Nations and other multilaterals.