Friday, August 15, 2003

AFGHANISTAN ROUND-UP
A alleged insurgency day of attack leaves 60+ dead. Taliban and Afghan forces battled in Khost which ended up in 16 guerillas and 5 Pakistanian border forces dead. A terrorist attack on a bus in Helmand left 15 dead, including 6 poor innocent children.

This violent week led President Karzai to purge several provincial officals, including the governors of Kandahar, Zabul and Wardak. In addition, the security chiefs of Kandahar, Kunar, Paktia, Khost, Tahar and Logar were replaced also. In a most dangerous move, Karzai stripped warlord Ismail Khan of his military command but retained his status as governor of Herat.

The Economist has a decent article on Afghanistan and analyzes the future for Afghanistan. He warns on the drug trade, warlords, ISAF expansion and humanitarian aid.

There's the good:

Whether or not Afghanistan can survive comes down, in part, to one simple question: are the forces of national integration there greater than the forces of local disintegration?

Optimists say yes. They think Afghanistan is more stable than at any time in the past 24 years. Many, perhaps all, of the terrorist training camps in the country have been destroyed. A soon-to-be-released study by foreign and local aid agencies suggests most Afghans think security has improved. Incrementally, optimists say, a semblance of national government is returning. On August 13th, the government in Kabul removed the warlord Gul Agha Sherzai from his post as governor of Kandahar and stripped Ismail Khan, the powerful governor of Herat, of his other role as regional military commander. A paper decree may not worry Mr Khan much, but it, and the removal of Mr Sherzai, shows the determination of the government.

On the optimists go. Afghanistan enjoys a legitimate government, confirmed by a representative loya jirga. There is considerable progress in writing a constitution and organising elections for next year, with suffrage for women. The new national currency, the afghani, is widely accepted and stable. The economy grew by 28% last year, according to preliminary IMF estimates. Two million or more refugees have returned home to rebuild their lives. That—together with the remarkable absence of any ethnic separatist movements—underlines Afghans' belief in their own country. There has been no major humanitarian crisis. Donors remain committed to their promises. America has tripled its aid to $1 billion this year; it will pressure others to do the same.
The bad:


Deep division and instability, as portrayed by this map


And the ugly:


Spending statistics: reason to be pessimistic

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