By Guy Smallman, in Afghanistan
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US interference in Afghanistan leaves thousands living in misery

This article is over 9 years, 1 months old
Issue 2437
Refugee children outside one of Kabuls 110 refugee camps
Refugee children outside one of Kabul’s 110 refugee camps (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Six months after his turbulent election president Ashraf Ghani has finally formed a government in Afghanistan.

Afghans had grown increasingly impatient with the political limbo. The reason for the delay leaked out just before new ministers were sworn in.

Ghani had been locked in negotiations with the Taliban to try and end the war still raging in many provinces.

His offer to the Islamists was bold and would have infuriated his US sponsors if they had accepted it.

On the table was governorship of three provinces, Helmand, Nimroz and Kandahar, where the Taliban already control vast swathes of the countryside.

More Nato soldiers lost their lives in those provinces than any other part of the country. The deal would have created immense friction with Ghani’s US and European partners.

But he considered it a price worth paying to end the fighting.

Three ministers were also on offer – rural affairs, borders and the Haj.

The role of rural affairs would have given the Taliban responsibility for ending the opium trade, something it had managed in the nineties.

Illegal drug production has exploded since the Nato invasion of 2001, plaguing Afghan society with criminality and addiction.

However the main stumbling block for peace remains the same. The Taliban is refusing to consider any deals while foreign troops remain in the country.

President Obama blackmailed Ghani last year into signing a deal that allows 10,000 US soldiers to remain in Afghanistan.

His refusal would have seen an end to all foreign aid – something that Afghanistan, with its ruined economy, is heavily dependent on.

Women from Helmand displaced by the fighting queue for a food delivery by an NGO

Women from Helmand displaced by the fighting queue for a food delivery by an NGO (Pic: Guy Smallman)

So with peace a distant hope, the war in rural areas continues. On 1 January a mortar round hit a house hosting a wedding party. It killed over 20 people, mainly women and children.

Ghani has promised a full investigation and harsh reprisals for the soldiers responsible.

Meanwhile the Afghan army lacks the training and technology that its Nato allies had in abundance. This has resulted in more frequent ambushes with the inevitable rise in civilian casualties.

The 6,000 families displaced by the fighting and living on handouts from NGOs around Kabul has recently risen sharply to 8,000.

Their misery in freezing, filthy refugee camps looks set to continue until all US troops leave and Afghans can agree on their future without outside interference

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