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Report: Afghan aid money spent on high salaries, living costs
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    KABUL, Afghanistan — Too much money meant for Afghanistan aid is wasted, with a vast amount spent on foreign workers’ high salaries, security and living arrangements, according to a report from humanitarian groups published Tuesday.
    The prospects for peace in Afghanistan are being undermined because Western countries are failing to deliver on aid promises — and because much of the aid money they do send is going to expatriate workers, according to the Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief, an alliance of 94 international aid agencies.
    Since 2001, the international community has pledged $25 billion in help but has delivered only $15 billion, the alliance said. Of that $15 billion, some 40 percent of it — or $6 billion — goes back to donor countries in corporate profits and consultant salaries, the report found.
    ‘‘A vast amount of aid is absorbed by high salaries, living, security, transport and accommodation costs for expatriates working for consulting firms or contractors,’’ the report said. The costs are increasing with a recent deterioration in security, it said.
    The cost of a full-time expatriate consultant working in Afghanistan is around $250,000, according to the group.
    This is some 200 times the average annual salary of an Afghan civil servant, who is paid less than $1,000’’ per year, the report said.
    Amy Frumin, an international affairs fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations who spent a year in Afghanistan as an officer on a U.S. Agency for International Development reconstruction team, said blaming high expat salaries is unfair.
    ‘‘You have to pay them good money to do that. They’re still having trouble finding people to fill these positions. It’s a dangerous place. Not many people are willing to risk their limbs,’’ she said.
    The report said that Afghanistan’s biggest donor, USAID, the U.S. government’s aid arm, allocates close to half of its funds to five large U.S. contractors and that ‘‘it is clear that substantial amounts of aid continue to be absorbed in corporate profits.’’
    The five companies are KBR, the Louis Berger Group, Chemonics International, Bearing Point and Dyncorp International, the report said.
    Donors, especially the United States, should ensure the primary objective of aid programs is poverty reduction and that they address genuine Afghan needs and build Afghan capacity, it said.
    The report also said the United States has not delivered $5 billion worth of aid it pledged to help rebuild Afghanistan, and other donors have fallen short by about that same amount.
    Jim Kunder, acting deputy administrator of USAID, said he recognized there are always concerns about the speed in which aid is delivered but he said the envisioned work is being done.
    ‘‘The U.S. government is on track to provide the aid to Afghanistan that it pledged,’’ Kunder said in a telephone interview from Washington.
    He said the report didn’t recognize that often much of the cash earmarked for projects isn’t spent until the work is completed. Roads and schools are being built and the Afghans are being helped to create democratic institutions even though the final bills haven’t come in, he said.
    USAID said it had pledged $25.8 billion, and of that $17.4 billion has been spent or is in the pipeline. Kunder said the money has gone to a broad variety of projects, including ‘‘supporting the national elections, constructing roads, reducing infant mortality by 22 percent, putting more than four million Afghan children in schools.’’
    Previous reports by aid groups have said the international community is spending far less aid money in Afghanistan per capita — and putting far fewer soldiers on the ground — than it has in previous conflicts.
    In the two years following the U.S.-led invasion, Afghanistan received $57 per capita in aid, while Bosnia and East Timor received $679 and $233 per capita respectively, the ACBAR report said.
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    Associated Press writers Lindsay Holmwood and Kent Kilpatrick in New York contributed to this report.