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Un Afghan report
international community should take note of
Afghanistan's "fragile" structure as pointed out in
a UN report. Released on Monday, the first-ever
Afghanistan Human Development Report paints a gloomy
picture of the country and warns that it could
"easily tumble back into chaos".
Unless the world took a broad and long-term view of
its needs, Afghanistan could "collapse into an
insecure state." This will, it said, constitute a
threat to its people and to the international
The focus of the report is on the state of human
resources in Afghanistan - literacy, life
expectancy, the condition of women and children, and
Almost 50 per cent of Afghans are unemployed, only
29 per cent over 15 years of age were literate, life
expectancy is 45 years, and the education system was
the "worst in the world" with 80 per cent of schools
destroyed during the war.
Realistically, the report takes note of the acute
security situation, and says that the war on terror
and drugs does not mean that human security should
take a back seat.
Since the fall of the Taliban regime more than three
years ago, Afghanistan has taken a number of steps
towards representative government. Chosen the head
of state by the Loya Jirga in June 2002, Mr Hamid
Karzai was elected president last October by a
During these three years his government has many
achievements to its credit. These include the
re-creation of a bureaucratic structure destroyed by
war, the improvement in security environs in Kabul,
the restoration of communications, the repair of
roads and bridges, and the return of a large number
of Afghan refugees.
However, much more remains to be done, especially in
terms of taming the rebellious warlords, who are a
law unto themselves. They maintain well-armed
militias, defy the Karzai government and have turned
the provinces into their fiefdoms.
Disciplining them is not easy, because the Afghan
national army has not reached the stage where it can
take on these elements. More unfortunately, the
8,000-strong Nato-led International Security
Assistance Force has restricted itself to Kabul and
At a recent Nato meeting, the alliance decided to
increase the number of troops by an unspecified
number, but a marginal increase would hardly meet
the challenging task it faces.
The truth is that in addition to the warlords'
militias, there are thousands of well-armed
mercenaries without any loyalties. The Taliban have
been weakened, but they still retain the ability to
carry out hit-and-run attacks.
The current lull in their activity is attributed to
Afghanistan's harsh winter, and observers expect a
new wave of attacks by the Taliban in spring. There
are also brigands and freebooters who operate with
impunity in the countryside and loot and harass
people. For these reasons, many doubt whether the
Karzai government will be able to hold the
parliamentary election due in April.
If the international community wants to help
Afghanistan it must enable the Karzai government to
improve the security situation. The pace of
reconstruction, painfully slow at the moment, cannot
be quickened because relief workers are abducted or
This has also reduced the Karzai government's
ability to absorb the aid pledged by donors. Without
a perceptible improvement in the security situation,
relief agencies and the government itself cannot
undertake the projects urgently needed for providing
succour to the people. A continuation of the status
quo could only add to chaos, strengthen the warlords
and bandits and prolong the misery of the Afghan