The Frontier Post, August 26, 2008
Afghanistan: The sick man of Asia
The country is bleeding because of the wrong policies of the United States
Since the beginning of 18th century the British empire and Russia used Afghanistan as a chesboard and as a part of Great Game for their vested interests and later towards the end of the 19th century the country was a sandwich between regional and global conflicting interests of the Unietd States and the Soviet Union. Thus, after the collapse of the Soviet empire (1990) and at the end of the Cold War, Afghanistan became more dangerous than the Cold War era and the country caught by cronic instability and now it seems to be a "Sick Man of Asia" because of its economic, political and socio-cultural poverty and a series of disastrous wars.
IRIN News, 18 May 2008: Sayed Ali said he had to sell his daughter to save the rest of his family from starvation.
Up to 18 million people in Afghanistan live on less than US$2 a day and are considered food-insecure, FAO says
The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (1979) had far-reaching effects on Afghan society and caused great destruction without pitched battles. During the a decade long war (1980-1990) 25,000 Soviet soldiers died, but on the other side approximately 1.5 million Afghans were killed, around 250,000 were wounded and six million fled as refugees to Pakistan and Iran and 180,000 became exiles elsewhere abroad.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimated that around 3.7 million Afghan refugees are still living in neighboring countries; 2 million in Pakistan and 1.5 million in Iran. So, the war badly damaged the country's infrastructure, and the nation suffered from a devastating drought and became one of the world's hungriest countries. In these circumstances, the United Nations virtually announced country the world's lowest life expectancy country which has low literacy rates and the highest rates of infant, child, and maternal mortality.
According to Amnesty International (London), after the end of Afghan war the country entered into worst shape of civil war in which massive civilians 35,000 were killed in indiscriminate attacks. Majority of civilians were killed when homes, schools, and public and private buildings were bombed and shelled by the warring factions.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) mentioned that Afghanistan is one of the heaviest mined countries in the world which has estimated 10 million land-mines. According to the Afghan Ministry of Martyrs and Disabled (MOMD) that more than a million people are living with disabilities and around 250,000 are victims of landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXOs).
On the other side, Afghanistan has one of the world's poorest human development indicators. In fact, Afghan war has left devastating effects on the health and well being of millions of children. According to UNICEF during the ten year war more than 300,000 children have been killed. The survey has shown that 60 percent Afghan children have lost their family member and 39 percent have lost their home. The burden of poverty falls heaviest on the children, who frequently abandon education in order to contribute to family income. In Kabul alone, more than 50,000 children work as shoe polisher, selling fruits or newspaper or begging on the streets. The UNICEF estimated that more than 5 million people in which 70 percent women and children rely on humanitarian aid to survive.
According to Afghan Human Rights Organisation (AHRO), the increase in the number of child rapes may drag the country into anarchy because child rapes have risen sharply in recent years. AHRO claims that most of the sexual assaults are carried out by government officials and other influential people. Most rapes in Afghanistan go unrecorded because families fail to report them under pressure from criminals. The human rights activists claimed that the courts take bribes, the attorney offices take bribes, and there is no one to ask about inhuman crime.
Maternal mortality is also at its highest in the world, and it is recorded that repeated wars, political turmoil and disasters have left grave effects on the physical and mental health of common Afghans and particularly on children and women. In this regard, post traumatic disorders, widespread infectious diseases, malnutrition have increased the sufferings of Afghans to an unacceptably higher level.
On the other hand, Swedish Committee on Afghanistan has given alarming report about enormous food problems and indicated that the country has bleak shortage of food, livestock and animals. The report assessments depict a systematic destruction of agriculture by Soviets and later by Americans planes, artillery and armed helicopters.
In the contemporary time, Afghanistan is under the grip of chaos, anarchy and became a home base for terrorism. It seems that the land is without state, society and system and has been converted into "failed state" because of chronic un-ended war imposed by the United States.
Moreover, Afghanistan become a lawless place and a locus of instability, terrorism and drug trafficking. So, suicide bombing, kidnappings, the killing of government officials and hijacking of aid convoys is the daily feature of society. The present confrontation between the US and Taliban has destroyed the country and some political observers claims that the security situation under the Taliban was better than the US-led forces.
A school torched by Taliban in Khost.
According to Ban Ki-moon, Afghanistan poses an enormous challenge to the international community. The state has no rule of law and a potent symbol of the costs inherent in abandoning nations to the lawless forces of anarchy. So, Afghanistan has become a focus of attention by Americans' undefined long-term strategic objectives, because after the September 11 (2001), the US perceived that the Taliban in Afghanistan are responsible for terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers (New York) and using the territory of Afghanistan as a safe haven for their evil designs.
So, the country is bleeding because of the wrong policies of the United States. The failures of US policies are the core cause of instability in Afghanistan. ...
Thus, the main reasons for current problems of Afghanistan are socio-political, not strategic. Moreover, volatility in Afghanistan is also a result of the lack of a credible US commitment with the country because such commitment will certainly or invariably will affect the US strategic goals in the region.
Since August 2003 the 40 NATO nations with the co-ordination of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), have 53,000 troops in Afghanistan under the command of US General David D. McKiernan and operating different operations in Afghanistan. However, at the moment the country has about 57,000 soldiers and officials expected to reach at a total of 70,000 by the end of the year.
However, Hamid Karzi regime claimed that they may need as many as 200,000 soldiers to secure the country. The prime objective of ISAF is to assist the Afghan governments in maintaining security and to expand its authority to the rest of the country. Nevertheless, in reality, foreign troops are fighting in Afghanistan and they don't know about the history of the country and impact of foreign intervention.
From October 7, 2001, the US has initiated attacks on Afghanistan to eliminate Taliban and Al-Qaeda elements and dropped more than 10,000 bombs, including air strikes from B-2 and B-52 stealth bombers and cruise missiles from submarines in the Arabian Sea. Thus, during the last six years (2001-2008) the US-led coalition forces have been killed approxipately 3400-4000 innocent civilians and thousands wounded in insurgent attacks or military actions and equally thousands are victim of starvation and disease as a direct consequence of the attack.
According to the UN the number of civilians, killed in fighting in Afghanistan, had jumped by nearly two thirds compared to last year (2007). The NATO sources also claimed that more than 900 people including civilians had died in Afghanistan since the start of 2008. So, the issue of civilian casualties is hugely sensitive in Afghanistan, although the UN and International Committee of the Red Cross urged that civilians never be the target of an attack, unless they take a direct part in the fighting. However, it is regrettable that many times the US aircrafts bombed the wedding parties in different parts of Afghanistan in which unaccountable civilians lost their lives and that is deeply emotive issues among ordinary Afghans.
In addition, the US efforts have been jeopardized prospects for establishing stable and accountable institutions in Afghanistan and the country is still under the strict control of warlords and violence seems to be a common phenomenon. Afghanistan is not seen as a functioning country. The US and NATO troops, pro-government groups, government officials and foreign aid workers have been targeted by the resurgent Taliban clerics. Many civilian have been killed by the US-led forces attacks or "crude and brutal" methods of torture that have sometimes led to death and the use of secret detention facilities that facilitate torture; and unacknowledged detentions that are tantamount to "disappearances."
According to Kathy Gannon (The Boston Globe), the Taliban time was very bad and the post Taliban time is equally too much bad because the billions of dollars foreign aid could not change the political and economic shape of Afghanistan. Regrettably, 80 percent people living below the line of poverty and have no access to proper nutrition and are deprived of basic facilities.
A recent report published by Womankind Worldwide, (British-based advocacy group), claimed that Afghan women are still deprived of the basic rights and there is no proper education available for them. Corruption in the government is popular fashion and many women are begging for food in different parts of the country.
According to Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) report, extreme poverty has increased prostitution among women. Moreover, high food prices, drought, unemployment and lack of socio-economic opportunities also pushed some women and young girls in northern and southern Afghanistan into commercial sex work.
US State Department Trafficking Report, (June 12, 2007) mentioned that Afghanistan is a source of transit and destination country for men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and involuntary servitude. In addition, Afghanistan has the highest rate of "violence against women" in the world.
RAWA Photo: Unprecedented Poverty in Afghanistan hits 80% of the population
According to the ministry of Women's Affairs 90 percent Afghan women are illiterate and lack primary necessities and are subject to extreme violence and majority of girls are usually married before their legal age. In most cases of violence against women are not reported due to the traditional and cultural complexities in Afghanistan; these cases include physical torture, murder, marital exchange and acts of suicide under extreme psychological pressure.
RAWA has reported that forced and child marriages are the primary source of violence in combination with polygamy these considerably increase the likelihood that women will be subjected to violence within the family, including sexual violence by significantly elder males. According to UN Population Fund (UNFPA), Afghanistan has the highest fertility rate in Asia, which is 6.7 percent, means the deaths of thousands of young mothers and infants every year but also poses long-term challenges. So, Afghanistan has the highest maternal mortality rate in the world with at least 1,600 deaths per 100,000 live births, according to UNFPA and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF). This is amazing that 24,000 women dying every year and 87 percent of deaths are preventable. These are a chilling statistic that contributes to making Afghanistan one of the most difficult places in the world to be a mother. It is interesting to note that thousands Afghans have poor living standard and they are still deprived of the basic facilities.
Pajhwok Afghan News (PAN) disclosed that there are around 3,000 caves in Bamyan province and near to Buddha statue hundreds of families living in the caves. Health sector is also non-existent, because according to WHO more than two million children are deprived of immunized polio drops and millions of people have no access of clean water.
Moreover, Afghanistan is becoming a narcotic state in the world because opium production rose 49 percent in 2007-2008 to 6,700 tons, more than enough to make about 670 tons of heroins and it is more than 90 percent of the world's supply and more than the world's addicts consume in a year. So, producing the opium and heroin is badly corrupting to Afghan youth and kids. The International Narcotics Control Board's reported that opium production in Afghanistan reached from 1000 tones in 2003 to 4,200 tones in 2007. The UN office on Drugs and Crime found more than one million addicts including 60,000 children under age 15 and the actual numbers are probably much higher, especially for children and women. Thus, Afghanistan has been the number one producer of opium in the world and production increased more than 15-fold since 1979 and the country is the source of 70 per cent of all the illicit opium produced in the world. According to the UN office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), report of 2007 the cultivation of opium poppies has shifted over the past four years from the Golden Triangle of Southeast Asia to Afghanistan, which now produces 76 percent of the world's opium. The rapid growth of opium production in Afghanistan has fuelled the development of a large heroin market in the region and further in Central Asia, the Russian Federation and East Europe.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimated that 93 percent of the world's heroin, made from opium, comes from Afghanistan and its income is being utilized by terrorists to purchase modern weapons. In this regard, The Times (London-November 24, 2007) clearly mentioned that President Hamid Karzai'' half-brother Ahmad Wali, head of Kandahar's provincial council, continues to be accused by senior government sources, as well as foreign analysts and officials, as having a key role in orchestrating the movement of heroin from Kandahar eastward through Helmand and out across the Iranian border.
According to New York Times Magazine (July 27, 2008) that Karzai appointed a convicted heroin dealer, Izzatulla Wasifi, head of anti-corruption commission and also appointed several corrupt local police chiefs who were running drug trade in Afghanistan and abroad. In the same way daily Telegraph (London) in issue July 25, 2008 accused Afghanistan president for protecting key drug smugglers. Thomas Schweich, who served as the State Department's most senior anti-drugs in official in Afghanistan until July 2008 mentioned that Karzai's overriding concern was to hold power and this had led him to protect 20 government officials, all linked to drug trafficking.
Further, British officials also indicated that a number of Afghan MPs linked to the drugs trade and some officials had to be circumvented because they were corrupted by drugs. It is regrettable that the United States came to Afghanistan to focus on reconstruction not military operations but since 2001 it appeared that Americans are only interested in tracking down terrorists and Al-Qaeda and have no short and long term plan for reconstruction or stabilization of Afghanistan. So, despite the US economic and political vision for development and their allocation for democracy and governance in Afghanistan are woefully inadequate. Moreover, the US has no real "road map" for a stable and economically viable Afghanistan. On the other hand, rampant insecurity, corruption, and the increasing drug trade are strong indicators that Afghanistan has begun to slip back into a period of uncertainty.
The people of Afghanistan hope that the US will honour its promises for prospect of a stable and prosper land but they are looking as one of the weaker and corrupt country in the world. Nevertheless, the US failure will not be restricted to Afghanistan and then safety and security of the free world will be jeopardized. The consequences will also spill over into Pakistan, Central Asia and the Middle East, in the same way Allama Iqbal truly predicted that Asia is but a body of mud and water. Its throbbing heart is the Afghan nation. The Afghan nation's relief gives relief to Asia and its corruption corrupts Asia.
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