Posts Tagged ‘news’

The week that was

April 19, 2008

I’ve been catching up on the news while I was away.

When you hear a continuous stream of it day after day it all starts to merge together; reading a week’s events all at once after a break has a different feel.

So, this was the week that was in Afghanistan:

The continued violent erosion of life.

The Supreme Court has confirmed the death sentences of some 100 prisoners.

Twice the number of recorded NGO security incidents over the first quarter of 2008 than the same period last year, and a substantial increase in civilian deaths.

The hugely popular Indian soap operas are banned from the airwaves (a ban so far defied by most television stations. I’ve been meaning to write about these for ages now, perhaps I should hurry up while it’s still relevant.)

A government committee drafts a bill that would ban men having long, ‘girlish’ hair, wearing fashionable jeans and t-shirts, unrelated men and women talking together on the streets, women from wearing make-up, ban playing billiards and other ‘Taliban-esque’ decrees.

Pakistan kicks out more Afghan refugees, bulldozing the Jalozai refugee camp.

School buildings across Afghanistan continue to be attacked.

NATO forces accidentally airdrop rocket propelled grenades and food supplies to the Taliban. Oops.

And listen to this excellent radio programme about Badakshan from the BBC.

I don’t have time to put links in for all of the above, but most of these stories can be found here or elsewhere.

I’m sure there has been some good news as well; it must just have passed me by. The press releases from UN, NATO, governments and NGOs are too boringly self-congratulatory and, one suspects, mendacious to want to read.


Aid failures in Afghanistan

March 25, 2008

I feel more like banging my head against a mud wall than posting anything here today. But while I do that, your own time might be more productively spent reading this:

KABUL (Reuters) – Peace in Afghanistan is undermined by Western nations’ failure to deliver promised aid and 40 percent of funds that do reach the country return to the West in profits and salaries, aid agencies said on Tuesday.

Afghanistan relies on international aid for 90 percent of its spending as it tries to rebuild state institutions shattered by nearly 30 years of war and at the same time fight off a renewed Taliban insurgency that killed 6,000 people last year.

Foreign spending on aid and development is dwarfed by that spent on international military operations in Afghanistan.

The U.S. military alone now spends some $100 million a day fighting Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan, but spending on aid by all donors since 2001 amounts to only $7 million a day.

“Given the links between development and security, the effectiveness of aid also has a major impact on peace and stability,” the Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief (ACBAR) said in a report.

“Yet thus far aid has been insufficient and in many cases wasteful and ineffective,” said ACBAR, an umbrella group for non-governmental organizations working in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan received just $57 per capita in aid in the two years after international intervention, compared to $679 a head in Bosnia and $233 in East Timor, it said.

The international community has pledged to spend some $25 billion on reconstruction and development in Afghanistan.

But, the report said, “just $15 billion in aid has so far been spent, of which it is estimated a staggering 40 percent has returned to donor countries in corporate profits and salaries.”

While there are problems delivering development to Afghanistan due to poor security, government corruption and the ability of the country to absorb aid, major donors have fallen far behind on their pledges, ACBAR said.

The United States, by far the biggest donor, has paid out only half of the $10 billion it committed in aid to Afghanistan for the period 2002-2008, the Asia Development Bank and India only a third of their pledged assistance for the same period.

Two-thirds of international assistance to Afghanistan bypasses the Afghan government, undermining the rebuilding of its state institutions, the report said. International donors also do not coordinate well among themselves and with the Afghan government on where their money goes.

“The Afghan government says it does not have information on how one-third of all assistance since 2001 was spent — some $5 billion,” the report said.

ACBAR called on donors to increase spending on development and humanitarian aid in Afghanistan, fulfill their pledges of aid, coordinate spending more effectively and channel more funds through the Afghan government.

By Jon Hemming.

For the executive summary and link to the full report from Oxfam and ACBAR, see here.

Incidentally, this isn’t the reason why I want to bang my head against a wall, but it will give me something to think about while I do so.

News from a distance

February 13, 2008

Afghanistan’s been in the mainstream news a lot more than normal these last few weeks. I scan the headlines of a couple of dozen headlines each day but have stopped reading them. They all seem so very distant.

I couldn’t figure out why at first. It’s not because I claim some special vantage point by virtue of living here, from where the comments of others, more knowledgeable than me, appear further away from this country. Far from it.

It is because the majority of these articles are not actually about Afghanistan, not in any independently meaningful way. They are about NATO, Canada’s troop levels and next elections, arguments between Germany and the US, about Paddy Ashdown, about America’s policies on the war on terror or the war on drugs.

Not what these wars mean to people in Afghanistan. Not what the future of NATO is for Afghanistan.

If these articles mention the 500 dead from the cold and snow, or the families that have sold a child for ten dollars (why is the price always included in this, as if the shocking thing is not that someone’s been forced to sell their own child, but how little money they have done it for? Not only are they evil parents, they’re bad capitalists to boot) just to survive, it is to give otherwise dry articles a bit of ‘colour.’ The focus remains on the danger to NATO, the threat of terrorism to Europe.

In the mainstream news at the moment, Afghanistan is an exotic but incidental background to the manoeuvrings of more powerful players.