Afghanistan was a troubled country in 2001. Not only is Afghanistan one of the poorest countries in the world, but protracted armed conflict since 1978 had forced 6 million out of a population of some 25 million people to flee to neighbouring countries, caused massive destruction of infrastructure and paved the way for warlords to rule over large parts of the country. The 2001 11 September attack by Al Qaeda placed Afghanistan at the centre of international politics and provoked the US-led 'Coalition of the Willing's attack on 7 October on Al Qaeda bases in Afghanistan in collaboration with a loose alliance of Northern Afghan groups and the subsequent overthrow of the Taliban regime. After the international military operation and up to mid-2004 Afghanistan received close to Euro 3.2 billion in total of humanitarian and development aid to rebuild the country. Of this, 25 % - Euro 791 billion came from five bilateral donors: the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark and Ireland. In 2004 the five donors decided to commission a joint evaluation of their aid programmes 2001-2005. The donors' support to Afghanistan was not just another humanitarian operation. It was a multi-dimensional intervention combining the objectives of development co-operation with broad foreign and domestic policy objectives, where the donors - of whom some had taken an active part in ousting the old regime - also aimed at supporting Afghanistan's new start through putting into place a new and democratically elected government and market economy. Bosnia, Kosovo, Cambodia, East Timor and Iraq have seen similar interventions and more are likely to follow. Evidently such interventions have to cope with novel problems, for which ready answers are as yet scarce. The findings of this evaluation regarding a range of central issues can serve as lessons learnt in the process of developing adequate answers to the new challenges. The evaluation was carried out by a consortium led by Chr. Michelsen Institute, Bergen, Norway, contracted by Danida's Evaluation Department on behalf of the five donors.

Arne Strand

Deputy Director, Research Director, U4 Director