The Hindustan Times, December 26, 2006

2006: year of bloodshed in Afghanistan

The year 2006 witnessed the killing of over 3900 people

NATO victim in Lashkargah

NATO victim in Lashkargah
Burnt children after a NATO bomb attack. Their disfigured faces are the real face of war
Photos by Maso Notarianni at the Emergency Hospital in Lashkar Gah

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While the world prepares to say goodbye to the year 2006, waiting eagerly to welcome the new year 2007, the people of Afghanistan, the Karzai government and the US and NATO fighters would like to forget their worst year since the ouster of Taliban five years ago.

The year 2006 witnessed the killing of over 3900 people, representing a four-fold increase over the 1000 deaths last year.

Those killed included about 1000 civilians. More than 115 suicide attacks accounted for 270 Afghan civilians and 17 international soldiers killed. 180 NATO soldiers have been killed in action against the Taliban, this year.

Taliban killed scores of school teachers including two women teachers in Khost.

They also torched 110 schools for, what they termed as un-Islamic education.

The bloodiest battles in Panjwayi district of Kandahar and Musa Qala in Helmand marked the takeover of the anti-Taliban operations by the NATO's UN-mandated International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in the southern Afghanistan provinces bordering Pakistan.

The year also registered a record opium production showing an increase of over 60 per cent as compared to 2005.

Afghanistan produces over 80 percent of the world opiates. Helmand province in the south is the largest producer of opium and incidentally the worst affected terrorist province, just opposite the Pakistani province Balochistan, the capital of which Quetta is supposed to be housing the Taliban bigwigs like Mullah Omar.

The funds generated from opium production and trade are finding their way to the insurgent Taliban to fund their campaign.

Despite pumping billions of Dollars, the lack of improvement in the lives of ordinary Afghans has belied the aspirations of people with signs of frustration, hopelessness and disillusionment.

The reconstruction and rehabilitation works have been severely hampered by the growing insecurity in the southern provinces.

Several aid and construction agencies and NGOs have been forced to withdraw.

Taliban are so emboldened that they have issued directions that no development agency in the south can function without their approval.

The country continues to have the highest infant-mortality rate in the world. According to the Afghan Health Ministry, more than 400 children below the age of five die every day in Afghanistan.

President Karzai and his Foreign Minister, Dadfar Spanta, have been continuously accusing Pakistan and its intelligence agency ISI of actively providing funds, training, logistics and sanctuary to the Taliban for achieving its aim of seeing them in governance of Afghanistan to acquire the strategic depth which it lost after the ouster of its creation Taliban in 2001.

Only last week, Karzai was moved to tears while reviewing the pitiful state of his country and the killing of its innocent citizens by the Pakistan backed insurgents. He went to the extent to say that Pakistan wants to 'enslave the Afghans.

The worst fears of the Karzai Government and the NATO commanders are that the Taliban, with the active support of ISI and Pakistan authorities might come with a bigger and much fierce attacks in the coming spring.

The NATO commander, General David Richards has warned that if the Alliance failed to win the hearts and minds of the Afghan people by implementing development projects in the next six months, about 60 per cent of the population would turn against the international forces and the Afghan Government, by intent or force.

A sure prescription for turning Afghanistan into chaos, 'a failed state again'!

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