Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Seven years on: worse than ever

Radio Free Europe's Ron Synovitz has reported from Afghanistan and Pakistan for several years, making him something of a veteran. (Not to say he's a great reporter - he embedded with US forces in Iraq in 2003.) He reports on the feelings of Afghans, seven years into the occupation of their country. While Synovitz finds several locals who praise the foreigners, those who criticize the foreigners make for interesting reading:

Seven Years After First Air Strikes, Afghans Hope For Jobs, Peace
By Ron Synovitz

OCTOBER 7 - Seven years ago, the United States began bombing Taliban-ruled Afghanistan after its refusal to hand over Al-Qaeda leaders who plotted the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. . .

"During the seven years that foreign troops have been in our country, they have brought misery to our country," [an unemployed Kabul man] says. "Our economy has become weaker and weaker. There are no jobs. People are suffering day by day. Look at us, we wait here from morning until evening and don't find work."

Shamsullah Khan stayed in Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation and the years of fighting between rival Afghan militia factions after the Soviet withdrawal. It was the fighting between NATO forces and the Taliban during the last two years in his home province of Helmand that forced him to move his family to a camp for displaced Afghans. He says he does not consider the deployment of U.S. troops in Afghanistan as a positive development for the country.

"After the arrival of the Americans in Afghanistan, we can see they have brought disunity," he says. "They have made each part of Afghanistan a battlefield. We want unity between the people and stability in our country. None of these are possible as long as the Americans are present. The Americans say, 'We are fighting the Taliban.' But we see them continuing to kill and bomb civilians." . . .

Mohmand Akbar, a resident of the northern Baghlan Province, says that security and the economy are the issues where progress needs to be made.

"During the past eight years, the only significant changes have been that there are a lot more explosions now, less security, and higher prices," Akbar tells RFE/RL.

Zia ul-Haq Mamozai, who works for a foreign nongovernmental organization in Kabul, says that he is acutely aware of the economic hardships faced by Afghans who are not fortunate enough to earn a salary from a foreign firm.

"The changes we feel is that it was better before than it is now," Mamozai says. "It was better before [the first U.S. air strikes] because prices were lower. Both poor and rich people could afford to buy bread. But now, only those Afghans who work for foreign organizations, or those who have a good business, can afford good food and good homes." (link)

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