Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), April 2, 2007
Afghanistan: Lack of development in Helmand revives Taliban
"We have more bloodshed, more poverty and more grievances than during the Taliban's time"
LASHKARGAH - More than five years after the ousting of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, residents of the southern province of Helmand say their lives have become more insecure.
"Afghanistan has received 12 billion $ in aid but there aren't any signs of serious reconstruction. Our people have not benefited from the billions of reconstruction dollars due to theft by the warlords or misuse by NGOs. Even a fraction of this aid has not been used for the benefit and welfare of our people. Government corruption and fraud directs billions of dollars into the pockets of high-ranking officials. It is such a big shame that the government still cannot provide electricity, food and water for its people."
Zoya's Speech ( ), Oct.7, 2006
"We have more bloodshed, more poverty and more grievances than during the Taliban's time," Haji Agha, a resident of Lashkargah, the provincial capital, told IRIN.
The Taliban were ousted from power in October 2001, but its fighters have maintained a hit-and-run guerrilla war against US-led coalition forces and Afghan forces.
Helmand is a no-go zone for aid and development agencies because of insecurity, say aid workers. More than half of the schools in Helmand have been closed for more than a year, depriving thousands of students of the right to education, according to UK-based NGO Oxfam and local NGOs.
According to analysts, the lack of development in Helmand is the key factor giving rise to new Taliban recruits and sympathizers. But the local population feel that their province has been largely neglected by central authorities.
"People are poor, unemployed and affected by drought. Instead of offering them assistance to survive, the government has eradicated their poppy fields and has installed corrupt and incompetent provincial officials," Engineer Matin, an MP from Helmand, said.
Poverty is driving people into the arms of the Taliban.
"The Taliban has become an alternative source of employment, recruiting the jobless as foot soldiers in the insurgency," US-based Center for Strategic and International Studies said in a recent report.
Reuters, April 2, 2007
According to the United Nations drug and crimes agency (UNODC), Afghanistan produces about 90 percent of the heroin sold in Western markets. Helmand tops Afghanistan's poppy-growing provinces, producing 40 percent of the war-ravaged country's annual 6,000 metric tonnes of opium.
Opium profits reach up to 70 percent of the population in the underdeveloped province, where agriculture and trade are the two dominant employment sectors.
Government officials speak of a drug traffickers' and insurgents' nexus that has turned Helmand into a breeding ground for insecurity in southern Afghanistan.
Backed by the US and Great Britain, the Ministry of Counter Narcotics in Kabul has tried to implement an extensive eradication programme in Helmand's vast poppy fields.
Destitute farmers see poppy destruction operations by the authorities as a threat to their wellbeing as they say have no other means to survive. Specialists are concerned that poppy farmers - deeply disenchanted with the government's eradication strategy - could find common ground with anti-government elements, including the Taliban.
Hundreds of the protesters, mainly mechanics, flooded to the streets in Lashkargah capital of southern province of Helmand to complain ill-treatment and torture by local policemen.The demonstrators complained police forcibly took money and tortured them on usual basis.
Pajhwok Afghan News, March 3, 2007
Widespread corruption and the government's failure to undertake tangible development work have also disappointed many, analysts say.
"Afghans increasingly believe that the international community is losing Afghanistan to the Taliban," warned a report by the Senlis Council released on 19 March. The Senlis Council is an international think tank that works on development and counter-narcotics policies.
Characters Count: 4882