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'AFGHANISTAN - A COMPLETE AND UTTER FARCE EVEN 18 MONTHS AFTER - 4 MAY 2003'


11th September 2001
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FROM: http://www.thestate.com/mld/thestate/news/nation/5781900.htm

[TVOTW Insert - 12 Apr 2004 - "We Cry For You Afghanistan" - Part 1 (5mins59secs - wmv) - Part 2 (3mins4secs - wmv)]

4 May 2003

AFGHANISTAN'S FALTERING REBIRTH

Failures to revive troubled country offer lessons for U.S. in Iraq

By KATHY GANNON

The Associated Press

Kabul, Afghanistan -- Police officer Saifullah says he hasn't seen a salary in months. His police station has just one car and two radios, shared among 115 officers. If he runs into trouble while on foot patrol, he has to race back to the station to summon help.

It has been 18 months since U.S.- led forces swept the Taliban religious regime from power, and at a time when the Bush administration is declaring major combat operations over in their country, people like Saifullah are disillusioned and worry the chance to create a new Afghanistan is slipping away.

  • Attempts to assemble a national army and police force are foundering.

  • Regional warlords are increasingly powerful.

  • The Taliban itself shows signs of making a comeback.

  • The government's writ does not run far beyond Kabul, the capital, and even here, protection is guaranteed not so much by Afghan cops as by nearly 5,000 international peacekeepers.

If the pace of reconstruction in Afghanistan is anything to go by, the challenge posed in Iraq seems even more daunting.

It's not too late to turn things around, says Afghanistan's interim president, Hamid Karzai, but "we are really at the 11th hour."

Billions in international aid was promised for Afghanistan, but the $1.8 billion that has flowed in has gone mostly to emergency aid for refugees and war victims -- help that's badly needed, but not the sort that generates jobs and improves living standards.

The big test begins now. In March, at a meeting in Brussels, Belgium, the international community promised $2 billion for the 2003-04 fiscal year, with the biggest chunk, $820 million, coming from the United States.

Meanwhile, a constitution is being drafted, and elections are planned for 2004. A successful outcome depends heavily on whether the aid is spent rebuilding dams, roads and cities, and giving Afghans a sense of security.

Afghanistan and Iraq have much in common. Both have suffered through years of conflict and are divided by centuries-old ethnic rivalries. They are roughly similar in size and population, both are overwhelmingly Muslim, and both are strategically positioned -- each bordered by a half-dozen countries of various degrees of friendliness.

There are also immense differences. Afghanistan has scant natural resources. Iraq has the world's second-largest oil reserves, and its populace is much better educated, its infrastructure more advanced.

Both pose a similar challenge of the West's ability to plant democracy and roll back the forces of Islamic extremism.

Apart from improving lives, Afghan reconstruction means pacifying a lawless land ruled by warlords, and the picture is not encouraging.

Private armies mean weak central government, and Karzai aides say the U.S.-led coalition isn't helping by arming and financing warlords to help hunt down Taliban and al Qaeda members.

"People of Afghanistan want a strong central government, and the longer this takes, the more disillusioned they become, and .'.'. the more it opens the door for those who want to create mischief," Vice President Amin Arsala said.

FROM: http://www.thestate.com/mld/thestate/news/nation/5781900.htm

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