Idle cranes, untapped mines as Afghans struggle to wean themselves off aid – by Robert Birsel (Reuters U.S. – December 2, 2015)

KABUL – The Omid Gardizi construction company on the outskirts of Kabul is at the sharp end of a painful transformation Afghanistan faces, as billions of dollars in foreign spending come to an end and Taliban violence undermines a stuttering economy.

Standing in a yard crammed with 50 pieces of hulking machinery, company owner Sayed Dilagha Mossavi said for years his work depended on NATO-led forces. Now most of them have gone.

“If they’re not here, no one will use this,” he said of his fleet of cranes, diggers, graders and rollers, which he estimated cost $5 million and is now gathering dust.

“The work has finished.”

The company employed 25 people in 2012, the year after NATO forces in Afghanistan peaked at about 140,000 troops. Today it has just three people on the payroll.

About 13,000 foreign soldiers remain, leaving Afghan government forces to battle the Taliban largely on their own.

The government does not have an estimate for the drop in off-budget military spending and aid in 2015 from levels a few years ago, but says it is billions of dollars. The country secured a $16 billion, four-year aid program from donors in 2012.

In an economy that generated less than $21 billion in annual output in 2014, according to World Bank data, the loss of billions of dollars in foreign aid and military spending has had a dramatic impact.

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