Monday, January 23, 2012

Things Fall Apart: Afghan Editon

For the latest indicator of just how screwed up things in Afghanistan truly are, there's this report based on a study of migration patterns in and out of the country by the International Organization for Migration.  Last year more than 30,000 Afghanis sought asylum outside of Afghanistan, a jump of 25% from the year before, though the actual number of Afghans leaving the country though is likely much higher since human smuggling from Afghanistan and Pakistan has become a billion-dollar business. The numbers point to the reversal of a trend – following the overthrow of the Taliban, Afghanis flocked back to their homeland with the hope of starting a new life.  But, according to the IOM, the situation reversed in 2007, when the security situation began to deteriorate.  Fewer Afghans are now returning home, while the number trying to leave has increased each of the past four years.

The reason most cite is the rapidly deteriorating security situation within Afghanistan, a situation most only expect to get far worse once the United States and the rest of the coalition wraps up its peacekeeping mission in 2014.  Europe remains the top destination for Afghan migrants, though for Afghans without the resources to get all the way to Europe, Iran is a low-cost option – a person can be smuggled across the border for just a few hundred dollars.  Most who take this route hope to one day earn the funds to get on to Europe.  And Afghan familes that can't afford to bring everyone out are choosing to send their sons abroad, a situation that will likely only make conditions in Afghanistan worse as the young men who could be rebuilding the country go abroad.

The migrant situation should be another indication of how badly the US-led coalition has managed reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan and the woeful ineptitude of Hamid Karzai's government.  Aside from its crushing levels of corruption, Karzai's government has failed in its most basic mission – providing security to the Afghan people.  There have been reports from around the country that in some cases the Afghan armed forces and police behave so poorly towards their own people that some villages actually prefer to be back under Taliban control.  And then there is the issue of Taliban infiltration into the Afghan Army.

There was another tragic example of this infiltration last Friday, when an Afghan Army soldier turned his weapon on the French troops instructing with his unit, killing four of the French soldiers and wounding 15 others.  The attack by their supposed allies has the French so enraged that they are threatening to end their participation in Afghanistan and bring their troops home.  “The French army is not in Afghanistan to be shot at by Afghan soldiers,” said France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy.  This move would be a critical blow to the coalition, since the French are one of the few participating countries that is actually sending properly armed and trained troops into Afghanistan in the first place.

If Afghanistan is going to have any hope for the future, the trend of migration has to at least be stopped, if not reversed.  For that to happen, Afghans have to believe that their country actually has a future,  and that means that the US and coalition partners have to get serious about nation-building and in forcing the Karzai government to see itself as a servant to the people and not a wealth-extraction machine for the Karzai family.
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