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In the News
Last Updated: 07/15/2003Afghanistan
Recent events in Afghanistan demonstrate some of the problems that may be faced also in Iraq for several years to come. The opposition groups have not been suppressed, an adequate national army and police force has not yet been formed, and foreign aid is falling short of real needs.
Government and Warlords
The transition from Taliban to Karzai’s government has not run smoothly. The capital, Kabul, is under Karzai’s control but the rest of the country remains divided up by the warlords and internal fighting is increasing rather than decreasing by some accounts. During the US led airstrikes the Taliban were never taken down completely. The strikes merely caused them to run and take for cover in the treacherous terrain that makes up most of Northern Afghanistan. They were never made to yield their weapons and in many cases members of the Taliban joined forces with local warlords.
Primarily it has been hardest for the government to control the remotest parts of the country. The rocky terrain and lack of forms of transport and communication makes it incredibly hard for Kabul to enforce any security there. The international peace keeping force (ISAF International Security Assistance Force) based in Afghanistan only looks after security in Kabul. The rest of the country is relatively unwatched and the government does not have the resources nor the manpower to maintain peace. This opening in leadership allowed for the warlords, (often with private armies better armed and equipped than the government forces,) to maintain control of the regions.
Over the past few weeks, we have seen a rise in the number of battles between the warlords, two rival militias led by warlords: Abdul Rashid Doshtum and Atta Mohammed who are fighting over control of the main city in the north of Afghanistan Mazar – e –Sharif recently opened fire against each other killing 11 people.
Requests by Hamid Karzai for ISAF to extend their area of protection have so far been to no avail. Troops initially stationed in Afghanistan were later moved to Iraq as the coalition stepped up military action there. Not only does the internal fighting of the warlords threaten the rebuilding process but also many aid agencies working in parts of the country where warlords are prevalent have voiced their concerns about there own personal risk and security.
Issues of aid to the country have also been questioned. Recent calls by senior UN officials have stated that the aid granted to Afghanistan by the international community is by no means sufficient to assist the country in its rocky path to recovery.
At an international congress in Tokyo in January, $4.6 billion of aid was committed to Afghanistan. Although a large amount of money, the World Bank and UN have recently estimated true costs of rebuilding Afghanistan more in the region of $13 to $19 billion. This huge shortfall will further delay the rebuilding process and may question the ability of the country to rebuild at all.
The police force which is in the process of being redrafted needs $121 million but has so far only received $11 million and the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund which requested $600 million this year alone and has only received $63 million.
Amongst the many aid agencies working in Afghanistan were the UN's World Food Program and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The greatest challenge was providing basic resources in the form of food and medicines to the thousands left homeless or displaced from the fighting. Some 2million refuges returned to Afghanistan in the months succeeding the fall of the Taliban.
However many Afghanis were disappointed that the aid only came in the form of products when many were calling for cash to help rebuild the economy. Kamaluddin Nizami the first deputy in the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development also stated that he believes that”cash assistance” for the people would do more to help the people in the long term by stimulating the economy.
With the start of the poppy harvest well under way, it appears that Afghanistan will again maintain its title as the top producer of opium. Many people in the country are dependant on opium; there are those that depend on it as their livelihood and those that are addicted. It has been suggested that 3-4 million people depend on the drug industry for income.
The Taliban during their reign of control laid down a universal poppy planting ban and generally the population abided to this however recent economic situations in the country have drawn the farmers back to there most profitable product. A farmer can make 10 times the profit on poppies as they can on food products. 1kg of resin is the equivalent to a monthly salary. Estimates set this years harvest at 1,900 to 2,700 metric tons of opium enough to flood international markets ranging from Asia to Europe.
The $3.2 billion US gas pipeline proposal has also been approved under Karzai’s government. American Petroleum giants Unocal who has been pushing the proposal to build a natural gas and oil pipeline through Pakistan, Afghanistan and Turkmenistan for a number of years, had previously been having talks with the Taliban about the construction. However talks were abandoned after Taliban attacks on US embassies in Africa. When President Bush first came into power, plans for restarting the talks were launched and it has even been suggested that Bush threatened the Taliban with war if plans were not approved. Possibly a motive for Taliban attacks on the WTT??
However within days of Afghanistan’s new government led by Hamid Karzai taking control of the country, a former aide to the Unocal, Zalmay Khalizad was named Special envoy to Afghanistan. The US has long since been trying to obtain direct access to the oil and gas supplies in rich abundance in the region. Oil from Turkmenistan, a landlocked country, (which allegedly has the 5th largest reserve of oil in the world) cannot be obtained without the assistance of the neighboring countries, namely Pakistan and Afghanistan. Recent questions raised about the go ahead given to the project have focused on Khalizad’s position; previously as a key player in Unocal’s pipeline plans and now as senior advisor about Afghanistan. However both Pakistan and Afghanistan have stated that the pipeline is needed to develop their suffering economies.
The latest 15 July 2003
Suspected Taliban fighters attacked a police headquarters in southern Afghanistan, killing the police chief and four other officers.
The latest reports show growing violence and resurgence of the Taliban. CNN report as we go to press 15 July 2003:
Two other policemen were wounded in the attack Monday in Ghorak district, 72 miles northwest of Kandahar, said Mohammed Salim, deputy police chief in Kandahar.
About 12 suspected Taliban drove up to the district police headquarters in two cars and a pickup truck. They stormed the station killing police chief Sakza Mama and his men.
No one claimed responsibility for the attack but Salim blamed the Taliban, who are usually the first ones to be accused of any attack on government offices in Afghanistan.
The Taliban have warned Afghans not to work for the government of President Hamid Karzai. They are believed to have been behind a spate of such assaults in recent months.
Militants detonated a bomb near a U.S. special forces convoy in eastern Afghanistan and then fired on the troops before fleeing, a military spokesman said Tuesday. There were no injuries.
The incident occurred Monday near Asadabad, capital of the eastern province of Kunar, spokesman Lt. Col. Douglas Lefforge said in a statement from coalition headquarters at Bagram Air Base.
Last weekend, suspected Taliban fighters ambushed a police vehicle near Thaloqan village about 25 miles southwest of Kandahar, injuring a senior police official and his brother.
18 July 2003
18 July 2003
Dear Amisha Koria,
I read your news round up on Afghanistan with interest. I appreciate that unlike many people in the media, you have not undermined the Afghan conflict in the midst of the ongoing Iraq conflict. The analysis sheds light on the most important factors in the whole Afghan crisis, namely governance, aid, oil, opium. One thing in particular I appreciate is the acknowledgement of the fact that Taliban effectively controlled the poppy cultivation. Not many people acknowledge that. It is indeed a timely effort. Thank you.
Though one thing which caught my attention was your equalisation of Al-Qaeda with Taliban. Please consider:
"However talks were abandoned after Taliban attacks on US embassies in Africa. When President Bush first came into power, plans for restarting the talks were launched and it has even been suggested that Bush threatened the Taliban with war if plans were not approved. Possibly a motive for Taliban attacks on the WTC?? "
If I were a not so informed person I would have believed what you have written, and blamed the Taliban for both attacks. But, a more learned person would be able to point out the error.
As far as my limited knowledge goes, allegedly, it was Al-Qaeda who attacked US embassies in Africa and not Taliban. Allegedly, it was Al-Qaeda who attacked the WTC and not the Taliban. Taliban niether had the resources nor they were accused of these crimes. They were simply punished for "harboring" the alleged terrorists.
I hope that you would agree with this observation.
Amisha Koria is news editor for Peace and Conflict Monitor. firstname.lastname@example.org