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Afghans 'blame poverty for war'

Children in a Kabul slum, 15 November
Many Afghans surveyed felt that foreign aid was not reaching them

Poverty and unemployment are overwhelmingly seen as the main reasons behind conflict in Afghanistan, according to a survey in that country.

British aid agency Oxfam - which questioned 704 Afghans - said seven out of 10 respondents blamed these factors.

Taliban violence was seen as less important than government weakness and corruption, according to the poll.

Oxfam said the survey showed that the country needed more than military solutions.

Half our people have been driven mad
An unnamed Afghan man interviewed in Nangarhar

One in five said they had been tortured and one in 10 claimed to have been imprisoned at least once since 1979, when Soviet forces invaded.

Based on what those surveyed said:

• one in six Afghans are currently considering leaving the country

• three-quarters of Afghans have been forced to leave their homes since 1979

• one in 10 Afghans have been imprisoned at least once

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Eight Afghan non-governmental organisations helped conduct the poll in 14 provinces across the country between January and April 2009, Oxfam said.

Those interviewed, it adds, were men and women selected at random.

'Always in fear'

The fourth most important factor behind the fighting, according to the survey published in a report entitled The Cost of War, was interference by neighbouring countries.

"The people of Afghanistan have suffered 30 years of unrelenting horror," said Oxfam chief executive Barbara Stocking.

"In that time millions have been killed and millions more have fled their homes. Those who have committed the most terrible abuses have enjoyed impunity rather than faced justice. Afghan society has been devastated."

Graph showing what Afghans believe is the cause of conflict

One respondent in Nangarhar, whose name was concealed in order to protect his identity, described the impact of the conflict on his fellow Afghans.

"What do you think the effect that two million Afghans martyred, 70% of Afghanistan destroyed and our economy eliminated has had on us?" he asked.

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"Half our people have been driven mad. A man who is 30 or 40 years old looks like he is 70. We always live in fear. We are not secure anywhere in Afghanistan."

Another man interviewed said: "If people are jobless they are capable of anything."

The survey suggests that many Afghans believe foreign aid does not reach those who need it most.

Addressing the military conflict, Oxfam's chief executive said the message from ordinary people in Afghanistan was that "all sides must stop targeting civilians".

They wanted international forces to tighten their restrictions on air strikes and night raids and to investigate properly all allegations of harm to civilians, she said.

The Afghan people interviewed also wanted insurgents to "stop taking refuge in civilian areas, which puts normal Afghans on the front lines of the conflict", she added.



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