Japan: a valued partner in Afghanistan
Having provided US$2.49 billion in assistance to date, Japan has proved to be a valued and reliable partner in supporting development and security initiatives across Afghanistan. Japan’s priority is to try to achieve a balance between security and development in order to enable a sustainable transition of authority on all fronts to the Afghan government. The pledge of an additional US$5 billion aid package in November 2009 demonstrates Japan’s continued commitment to supporting the mission of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and the wider efforts of the international community to stabilise the country and help build a better future for its people.
Balancing security and development
“Our assistance to Afghanistan is focused on the security and development of the region. You can see that by how we prioritise infrastructure and the security of civilians,” states Councillor Hiroyuki Yamaya of the Embassy of Japan in Brussels.
Japan’s assistance encompasses four categories: humanitarian assistance (US$ 401 million), political processes and governance (US$ 299 million), security improvements (US$ 679 million) and reconstruction (US$ 1109 million).
Though its contributions to humanitarian assistance and political processes and governance have been invaluable, Japan’s most important investments are in security improvement and reconstruction.
“We believe that we have to prioritise the capabilities of Afghan forces to create a sustainable security environment,” says Councillor Yamaya, underlining the importance of security for meaningful and sustainable reconstruction.
As a result, Japan is a leading contributor to the Afghan national police forces, providing half of all police salaries through the United Nations Development Programme’s Law and Order Trust Fund for Afghanistan (LOTFA). Japan also provided the Afghansitan National Army (ANA) with US$11.5 million in much needed medical supplies in FY2009, and disbursed a further US$23.8 million last February for this purpose.
Important strides have been made towards the disarmament and re-integration of militias and illegal armed groups. Japan’s contribution of $267 million has led to the disbandment of 737 out of 2000 illegal armed groups that have been operating in Afghanistan. The districts they operated in, all located in the north of the country, have since benefited from 105 development projects that have been completed or are currently in progress.
There are many other examples of Japanese commitment to Afghan security in counter-narcotics, demining, and munitions stockpile management. This multi-layered approach is aimed at helping to provide the security Afghans need to be able to rebuild their nation with their own hands.
In terms of reconstruction, Japan’s approach is to provide the tools necessary for Afghans to prosper, and provide immediate care to those who need it most. To this end, Japan has helped construct roads, wells, clinics and schools, and provided aid to many rural development projects.
James Appathurai, NATO Secretary General's Special Representative for the South Caucasus and Central Asia, emphasized the importance of Japan’s efforts. "Japan's contribution in Afghanistan has made a direct and substantial difference in key areas, including reconstruction of the country, and training of Afghan security forces; both are essential foundations of Afghanistan's future. Japan's efforts also illustrate that this is a truly international mission, with important countries across the globe playing their full part."
The best illustration of Japan’s policy towards Afghanistan is embodied in its contributions to ISAF’s Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) projects. PRTs generally consist of teams of some 60 civilian and military personnel working in a specific province with local Afghans to provide an environment where governance is self-sustained.
Through the Japanese Grant Assistance for Grass-Roots Human Security Projects (GAGP), Japan has played a lead role in the PRT working in the district of Chaghcharan. Through involvement in 59 projects, it has funded repairs and the construction of:
- 33 schools;
- a market;
- two suspension bridges;
- a hospital;
- three hydropower systems;
- two community centres ;
- a reservoir; and
- a natural disaster shelter.
To support this new infrastructure, Japan has helped with basic education and literacy programs, as well as job training workshops and basic hygiene courses.
Japan has been involved with other PRTs across the country, where a further 61 projects have been undertaken. In total, ISAF PRTs and Japan have programmed just over US$20 million of GAGP funds since 2007. However, Chaghcharan represents Japan’s most comprehensive effort to support Afghans, providing jobs, education, and health care. This involvement shows how Japan’s assistance to Afghanistan not only focuses on the big picture, but also seeks to impact directly the daily lives of the Afghan people ISAF works to protect.