CARE Says Paving the Road to Peace in Afghanistan Requires More than Good Intentions

CARE
Tuesday, 16 September 2003

"Putting Afghanistan on the road to peace needs more than good intentions, it needs urgent action," the humanitarian organization CARE and the Center on International Cooperation said in a policy brief issued today.

CARE, which has been fighting poverty in Afghanistan for 30 years, is seeing violence rising and reconstruction slowing to dangerous levels. Since September 2002, armed attacks against the assistance community have increased from one a month to an average of one every two days.

The report notes: "It is becoming almost impossible to do reconstruction work in many areas of the South. Reconstruction cannot move forward without greater security. Without reconstruction, insecurity will continue to thrive." Click here to read a copy of the policy brief.

From June-August 2003, the ratio of armed attacks outside Kabul to inside the city was approximately 7:1, versus 2:1 at the same time last year. Meanwhile, International Security Assistance Force soldiers remain restricted to Kabul.

"NATO must urgently expand peacekeepers outside the capital before the security situation gets any worse," says Paul Barker, CARE's Country Director in Afghanistan.

Only 40 percent of funding promised by the international community in 2002 and 2003 has been released, according to the report. Due to insecurity and delays by donors and implementers, only 1 percent of Afghanistan's reconstruction needs have been met after 18 months.

"The longer Afghans are made to wait for concrete signs of greater progress, the easier it will be for extremists to exploit their resentment and for criminals to profit from the institutional vacuum that results," says Kevin Henry, Advocacy Director for CARE USA.

Drugs are flourishing in that vacuum. Afghanistan's share of global opium production went from 12 percent in 2001 to 76 percent in 2002, when the country produced more than 3,400 tons of the drug. Drug money is helping to fuel the power of warlords, militants and traffickers and weakening the authority of the central government. Extremists are exploiting this weakness, repeatedly targeting the most visible reconstruction project in the country, the vital Kabul to Kandahar road.

In light of the attacks, the U.S, which is helping to fund the rebuilding, decided to pave the road with a temporary surface and to protect workers with a 700-member security force. Delays in completion linger, however, and the road, as well as the rest of the country, is far from secure. Action remains to be taken on expanding the International Security Assistance Force to key locations around the country. The report contends that it is past time to abandon short-term fixes to Afghanistan's problems and make long-term investments in the country's future.

"The consequences of a lack of security and a lack of funding are clear," says Henry. "The choice in Afghanistan is to pay now to build a self-governing and self-policing state with a legitimate, growing economy; or to pay later, if Afghanistan is allowed, once again, to become a haven for extremists and a threat to the world. The longer the international community waits to take action, the higher the price will be."

For more information, or to contact CARE, see their website at: www.care.org

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