Posted on 29 Feb, 2024 by Tilman Welte

As an international consulting firm, GFA is committed to delivering insights that drive progress and inform strategic decisions. Our company has been part of the joint inter-ministerial and strategic evaluation of the civilian engagement of three German ministries in Afghanistan between 2013 and 2021, namely the German Federal Foreign Office (AA), the Federal Ministry of the Interior and for Home Affairs (BMI) and the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). The Federal Foreign Office has commissioned GFA with its partners SiCon International and CEval GmbH. The evaluation took place concurrently with two further German review processes on Afghanistan, the Bundestag's Enquête Commission set up in 2022 and the Bundestag's Committee of Inquiry on Afghanistan.

The analysis, conducted by GFA in collaboration with leading institutions in the field of development evaluation and research, namely DEval, the German Institute for Development Evaluation and DHPOL, the German Police University, scrutinizes over € 3,5 billion in projects across crisis prevention, stabilization, development cooperation, security sector support, humanitarian aid, and cultural policy. The evaluation's core aim was to independently assess the relevance, the effectiveness and impact as well the coherence of the civil engagement in Afghanistan, extracting valuable lessons for future crises management.

The evaluation has been based on a theory-based approach, reconstructing the Theory of Change implicitly underlying the engagement and followed a mix method approach with a focus on documentary analysis and semi-structured interviews. A field visit to Afghanistan was not possible due to the security situation. However, many Afghans living in the diaspora have been interviewed.

The main aim of the German government's civilian engagement, which was agreed with the international community, was to establish a democratic state based on the rule of law in which the government has a monopoly on the use of force and whose representatives enjoy the trust of the population. Civilian support should enable Afghanistan to develop peacefully in the long term and offer prospects for the future beyond poverty, displacement, migration and extremism. Another important goal was to contribute to the peace process within Afghanistan. In addition, the German government's involvement aimed to improve the socio-economic living conditions of the Afghan population in the north of the country and in Kabul with a particular focus on women and girls.

© GFA/GIZ, acriculture project in Afghanistan: Fish pond and onion field The unexpected fast and violent takeover of the Taliban in August 2021 showed clearly that the key goal, the establishment of a democratic state based on the rule of law, whereby state institutions and their representatives enjoy the trust of the population was not achieved. This applies also to the goal of a self-sustaining economic system in Afghanistan. One important reason for missing these targets was that the objectives were too ambitious and based on the false assumption that such a state could be built from outside without sufficient congruence of interests with the Afghan elites.

It is however important to underline that several determining factors severely hampered the success of the civilian engagement from 2013 onwards. These include above all the low level of state penetration in Afghanistan; the attempt to develop the state structures, which barely existed, along Western lines; the lack of value creation within Afghanistan; the economic dependence on the outside world (rentier state), and the ongoing violent conflicts against the backdrop of the lack of an internal peace process with-in Afghanistan.

Even if the overall objective was not achieved, the ministries made important contributions to strengthening social participation and improving the living conditions of the Afghan population, particularly in the north of the country. For over 20 years, German civilian actors have played a positive role in shaping the lives of many Afghans. It is currently too early to say to what extent this support was in vain or has left more lasting traces than are currently visible.

All reports have been published in German and an English translation of the executive summary is foreseen. The reports can be found on the web page of the Foreign Ministry.