The Washington Post, February 24, 2007


Life in Afghanistan declining, report says

Afghans tend to be more negative in their outlook than official statistics or media accounts would suggest

Griff Witte

Conditions in Afghanistan have deteriorated markedly since 2005, with rising violence, government corruption and misguided U.S. efforts contributing to growing unease among the population, according to a report released Friday based, in part, on 1,000 interviews with ordinary Afghans.

Although there were bright spots -- a better overall economy, more rights for women -- the report's authors found diminishing security as the Taliban step up their attacks, a discredited justice system and a severe lack of basic services such as electricity.

Kabul in gap of poverty and destitution ( http://www.rawa.org/images/h_kabul.htm )
RAWA Photo: Childern are the prime victims.

Produced by the nonpartisan Center for Strategic and International Studies and financed in part by a grant from USAID, the report also found that Afghans tend to be more negative in their outlook than official statistics or media accounts would suggest.

"Public fear and frustration are on the rise in Afghanistan. As a result, Afghans are beginning to disengage from national governing processes and lose confidence in their leadership," according to the report. "Dramatic changes are required in the coming weeks, or 2007 will become the breaking point."

Among the report's recommendations are to shift the focus away from eradicating poppy fields and toward interdiction, to give local communities more control over aid money and to abandon major military sweeps that inflict damage on civilians in favor of rapid-response forces that can protect Afghans in emergencies. "NATO and the United States' 'big army' military operations and emphasis on foot soldier 'kills' are doing more damage than good," the report said.

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