Washington International Law Journal


In August 2021, the United States withdrawal from Afghanistan marked the end of twenty years of attempts at liberal state building and development in that country. Despite spending trillions of dollars to create a capable, functional government, the Afghan government could not last even a week without US military and financial support. After its collapse, the Taliban immediately took over Afghanistan for the second time (Taliban 2.0). This turn of events resulted in the discontinuance of foreign aid and immediate downturn of the Afghan economy. Since then, there has been debate, among other issues, over why and how the foreign aid failed, and whether and how aid (if any) should continue to flow into the country under Taliban rule. This Article argues that foreign aid from governments and non-governmental donor agencies was not the essential problem, but it was the centralized aid and public finance management system which caused systemic corruption and waste. The monopoly of authorities, discretion over resources, and lack of downward accountability promoted a top-down, unanswerable aid and public finance management system which ultimately failed the Afghan State. With the Taliban again in power, there are two main issues that challenge the flow of foreign aid, aside from its egregious human rights record. First, the international community cannot trust a regime that has not (yet) been formally recognized or proved itself a reliable recipient; and second, the authoritarian and undemocratic leadership is pursuing the same centralized approach to management of aid and public funds. While the aid would remain humanitarian in scope, there is no assurance, as was the case in the previous regime, of any sustainable prospect of peace and in-country development. Nevertheless, the international community must find a way to meet this development challenge.