Socialist Worker

Afghan people face a winter of famine

by Simon Assaf
Issue No. 2126

Famine is stalking Afghanistan and is threatening the lives of millions of its people, international aid agencies have warned.

An estimated 8.4 million Afghans – one in four of the population – are in danger of starvation as winter closes in because of severe food shortages, high prices and a summer drought.

The World Food Programme, a United Nations (UN) agency, warns that the country needs 95,000 tonnes of emergency supplies.

Many Afghans have been reduced to eating grass. Countless others have already perished from hunger.

The agency estimates that 30 million Afghans live in severe poverty – a higher figure than when the US invaded the country in 2001.

The US has spent £110 billion on their war in Afghanistan so far, according to a report from the US Congress.

In contrast, the country has only received £10 billion of the £16 billion it was promised in aid at the beginning of the war.

An estimated 40 percent of this aid has been handed over to Western companies for failed “reconstruction projects”.

Despite this looming humanitarian disaster, the US is planning to ramp up its military assault on the country. It will send a further 20,000 troops to try and reverse the Nato occupation’s fortunes in Afghanistan.

This new “surge” is part of a plan by the US and its Nato allies to coax sections of the resistance, now rebranded as “moderates’, into “tribal militias” that are allied with occupation.

Centrepiece

General David Petraeus, the new US commander for the region, has made these negotiations the centrepiece of his new strategy. Even the hawks in the US administration who pushed for the invasion are now calling for a deal.

“We ought to see if we can use the natural forces of Afghanistan to create a structure we can live with,” explained Brent Scowcroft, George Bush’s former national security adviser. “It’s been a basically tribal or warlord society presided over by a loosely governing entity.”

These “natural forces” are the same people we were told were “extremists” that had to be defeated by the brutal firepower of “Western civilisation”.

The new US strategy is an attempt to strike a deal similar to the one it has made in Iraq. There the US bought off sections of the Iraqi resistance and dubbed them “awakening councils” – pro-US militias made up of former resistance fighters.

But there is no guarantee that this strategy will work in Afghanistan or Iraq. Despite recent negotiations hosted by Saudi Arabia between the resistance and the Afghan government, a senior Taliban commander told Newsweek, “There is nothing to talk about.”

Afghanistan’s problems have been compounded by the forced repatriation this year of an estimated 276,000 refugees – the majority from neighbouring Pakistan. Many are fleeing a punitive military offensive by Pakistani troops on the regions bordering Afghanistan.

The US and its allies hope that this offensive will destroy the safe havens used by the Afghan resistance. But the spread of fighting across the border is triggering a dangerous escalation of the war.

Whatever the outcome of this new approach to the occupation, it is condemned by the mass of impoverished and desperate Afghans who face a winter of starvation – while billions of dollars continue to pour in to fund the destruction of their country.


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Article information

International
Tue 4 Nov 2008, 18:30 GMT
Issue No. 2126
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