2003 September 19 Friday
Afghanistan Rebuilds Slowly, Taliban Influence Spreads

BusinessWeek Bombay bureau chief Manjeet Kripalani took a trip thru Afghanistan and wrote a two-part article on her experiences. Little aid money is being spent.

Afghanistan became a sideshow. So now the warlords are back, vicious and rapacious. The Taliban is back, too, terrorizing the area. The Pakistanis are back to their old game of wanting to make an even poorer Afghanistan their colony, many Afghans feel. And the West's promise to reconstruct the country hasn't been kept.

Of the $5.1 billion that was promised to Afghanistan after the Taliban's ouster, to be spread over five years, only about $2 billion has come through. Afghan officials tell me that hardly any of that funding -- a pittance next to the $87 billion President George Bush wants to spend in Iraq -- has found its way to the formal rebuilding of the country. Most seems not to have gone much beyond Kabul, the capital. Kandahar, certainly, shows little evidence of that cash.

Bush is pushing for a tripling of aid to Afghanistan in part ot help Karzai to be relected as President in next year's election. Meanwhile most other countries that have promised aid are providing very little of it.

The Taliban are regaining control of parts of Afghanistan.

The next night, a woman who worked at the house where we were staying whispered that she had seen the dead or wounded bodies of young Afghan boys being brought into the city in the dark. It was a fight between Afghan tribes, but these skirmishes, I'm told, are instigated by the Taliban, trying to reassert their rule. Bit by bit, they are crossing the Pakistani border and coming into the southern flank of Afghanistan, capturing village by village, then district by district.

A former mujahideen fighter recognizes the strategy. It's what they themselves did with the Soviets, he declares. In Zabul province, adjoining Afghanistan, I'm told the Taliban have appointed their own governor and their own police chief. It's only a matter of time before they move into Kandahar.

What the US, the West and rest of the world is doing in Afghanistan is even less than half-measures. A larger portion of it ought to be secured and modernized.

One disappointing point that she mentions is the use of Pakistani laborers to build the roads instead of training local Afghans in the necessary skills. This reduces the amount of aid money that stays in the local economy and seems dumb.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 September 19 12:47 PM  Chaotic Regions


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