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Thursday, 6 December, 2001, 11:50 GMT
Afghanistan: Should aid take precedence?
The US is not taking the aid effort in Afghanistan seriously enough, according to the UK's International Development Secretary, Clare Short.
She says that breakdowns in communication with the US military are creating problems for aid workers on the ground in Afghanistan.
Agencies, such as the World Food Programme, say that food is getting through, but they are finding it difficult to reach remote areas.
They have called on the United Nations to organise a multi-national force in order to provide stability as soon as possible.
But the US defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, says it is "unlikely" that US forces will become part of a semi-permanent peacekeeping activity in Afghanistan.
Could the US be doing more to assist the aid effort? Is there a need for foreign peacekeeping forces in Afghanistan to help stabilise the region?
This debate is now closed. Read your comments below.
A UN peacekeeping force needs to be installed to protect food convoys who are currently being robbed by roaming bandits (Taleban? - they don't appear to be staving as the food isn't what they are after). The US is doing exactly what it needs to - focusing on finding bin Laden while at the same time providing the lion's share of humanitarian aid. I don't think anyone in the coalition intends to abandon Afghanistan after al-Qaeda is destroyed. Had the US stayed after the Russian pullout, however, we would have been loudly denounced as "Empire builders". Different time, differently political reality and clearer vision.
I Khan, Atlanta, USA
Absolutely the U.S. should be POURING humanitarian assistance into Afghanistan. For someone who fought as an infantryman in Vietnam, where there were no cheering crowds waving and smiling at "liberation", I say, that is one experience our military forces NEED to not only experience, but share with those who follow. My Dad and all his brothers, uncles, aunts were ALL in WW II. Those who fought in Europe or the Philippines said it was wonderful to have cheering crowds of "liberated" people.
We (the U.S.) need to move quickly and forcefully to assist humanitarian food columns reach their intended targets, without bandits taking over the food items. These food items need to be given to the poor. Same for shelter, radios, blankets, additional clothing, cookware, whatever might be needed. These issues are as much a part of the U.S. military campaign as are the laser designation teams. Give them some funds to help with this rehabilitation effort. Give them some "ownership" of these efforts. Help them regain THEIR Afghanistan. The United States has plenty of people who hate our guts. We need to also show the world another part of the true American personality - generosity, kindness, compassion.
I think that the rest of the world has taken the US completely for granted. All of the demands and criticisms I read on these pages are contradictory and childish. You want our money, but don't want to give us even the right to defend ourselves. Half of the voices insist that the US owes the world democracy, the other half that we must stop being imperialistic. You insist that we correct mistakes made by every other government, but that we should have no say in how our money is spent. "Give us your money and then leave us alone", is what I hear. I hear this sense of entitlement and ingratitude. Well guess what, that is my money that you want to spend and I resent very much those demanding and ungrateful voices. I work hard for what I earn, I went to school, and I am struggling to figure out a way to afford to have children and pay my bills at the same time (it is called being responsible). I personally have never done anything to cause the world's ills, prejudice, or the cruelty that you want my money to fix.
Here is another clue, the US cannot give another nation wealth. Our wealth is not a fixed entity, but the result of principles and ideas (oh yes the horrible, capitalism). Our wealth is generated by the notion that property and liberty cannot be separated. You cannot in essence say, "you will work and sweat so that others can eat", because this principle goes also by the name of slavery. Until countries are willing to accept these basic principles of property, liberty, government, they will not develop fully.
I think that any human being with realistic views will see the current military operations as the best thing that has ever happened (ultimately) to Afghanistan as a country. 10 years from now the U.N. led reconstruction will transform the population centers of that country. There is a great deal of unpublished concern for that here in the states. The building of Afghanistan (I can't say rebuilding because it was already destroyed) will be a worldwide contribution. The people of Afghanistan should decide what manner of government they want. The basic function of our society here is so deeply ingrained with that reality that assumptions to the contrary are absurd. I would like to ask your US attackers where there were at when US forces were dying in Chechnya to protect Muslims, where they were at in Somalia. Sitting back hating the USA I simply ask them to look at the facts, ALL the facts, for a change.
When you hear talk about getting the "evildoers," do not forget that George Bush would NOT have sent bombers to stop the mass murder of Kosovars. He made it clear in the presidential debates that U.S. interests would have to be at stake before sending in troops. Bill Clinton had far more true moral authority than this guy.
Aid needs to take a higher priority. That doesn't mean that the pursuit against Bin Laden needs to be diminished, nor that US troops need to be deployed on the ground. It requires the US administration to have a greater vision. That the US already contributes a significant amount of food through various aid agencies is positive, what seems to be missing is co-ordination and co-operation. Success against Bin Laden will be undermined, if as seems quite possible, the US is left in many Afghans eyes as the bad guy, blamed for hunger and starvation through the failure to deliver aid adequately.
Carolyne, Aldershot, Hants
Clare Short is very right. US should take the lead for the aid effort to Afghanistan because the US bombings have increased the number of Afghan refugees by another million. US ground troops can keep searching for
Osama Bin Laden at the same time. The US ego will very much be damaged if Osama is never found but that can't take precedence over a humanitarian crisis.
Why aren't the UN in the country yet? It is their job to deal with peacekeeping and humanitarian crises, but as in Rwanda, Serbia and so many other places the UN has failed yet again. Alternatively, let the US continue prosecuting the war against terrorism whilst others deal with aid. Where is the EU? Where are the oil-rich Muslim nations? Hanging back, leaving the US to deal with it all as per usual. Then they complain about the US trying to run the world!
Michael, London, UK
Osama Bin Laden is the main priority. End of story.
I am not surprised that the hand-wringing leftists and intellectuals, obviously out of their educational depth in the art of war, continue to take the coalition and the United States in particular, to task for this conflict. Reading those who want military action stopped prior to effective completion so that war criminals in Afghanistan and their supporters can be fed, is preposterous.
The American government's sole aim was to capture Osama Bin Laden and remove the Taleban from power. Reconstructing or rebuilding Afghanistan is no concern of America though it pays lip service to do so. The greatest service the US can do to Afghanistan and to the world is by changing its foreign policies and not interfering in the internal affairs of other countries. The US, the West and rich Islamic nations have the moral responsibility of helping Afghans and rebuilding Afghanistan.
Arif Sayed, Dubai,UAE
Of course aid should take precedence. Bush said "our cause is just" - by this he meant "we're the good guys". But do good guys knowingly cause humanitarian disasters? Hmmm...
Since about 24 years of war in Afghanistan, the Afghans are getting help of outside world. The former communist countries, headed by the Soviet Union, helped the former government and the anti Soviet alliance, headed by the USA, helped the mujahideen. The consequence is that the Afghans lost every thing and are playing now with explosives. I don't know how long these people will continue to do begging. Why the international community doesn't think about investments in Afghanistan to create jobs and work opportunities for the Afghan people? Now the US can keep the eyes on Osama. As soon as the Afghans stand on there own feet, they will tie the hands of Osama and will hand it over to the US.
Paul, London, UK
It is obvious that the US and the US-allied nations needed not to start bombing in Afghanistan. They could have caught Bin Laden by other means than military campaign, bombing, to take him to the international court to investigate and judge if he really involved in the incident, the tragedy, on Sept. 11. But once the US and the US allied nations started the war and smashed the Afghan people's land and life, the aid and reconstruction of their country are the US and the US allied nations' responsibility, at least. Bombing should be stopped immediately. Yes, the aid should take precedence.
The cause of this conflict was Bin Laden's cold, cruel and inhuman attacks on America. The first priority of the U.S. must be to wipe out the terrorists and their sponsors. Only when the Taleban have been eliminated can the U.S. give the humanitarian part of the mission the attention that it needs.
I do not think the Americans care too much for Afghans; their only intention is to catch the so-called culprit for the September 11 event, even if it means levelling all of Afghanistan. It resembles what the Israelis did to Beirut and now Palestine Cities. I have never seen American hypocrisy at its best, i.e. drop bombs and food aid, with same label colors. I feel sorry for myself having admired America for so long.
Why is there so much anti-American diatribe on this page?
Priority 1 must be to win the war. Otherwise, aid cannot be guaranteed to reach its intended recipients. Priority 2 is to establish a stable government, with whom the rest of the world can enjoy dialogue and co-operation. Priority 3 should be the long-term lesson from the majority of peace loving people that terrorism has no place in this world.
The US did not start this war - we owe it to the US and to ourselves to make sure that we end it.
The issue is not about the amount of aid, because the US will be the largest donor, but about how to secure the transportation of the aid while there is still battles raging. The Northern Alliance is sceptical when armed US and UK soldiers are placed in Afghanistan to provide protection for convoys of food aid. They are afraid that these men are there to control what the Northern Alliance feels is their rightful place in regards to a new Afghan government. Furthermore, the troops the US has in the region are special forces and are on the mission of destroying Osama bin Laden and the terrorist network. They are not peacekeeping troops. The mission has yet to be completed. There are still many dangers as evidenced by the recent tragic deaths of 7 journalists. It is understood that aid must be provided, but we also have to ensure that this aid will have a relatively safe environment in which to work and to guarantee it will reach the people in desperate need.
For those who think this entire effort is about an oil pipeline, has any of you heard Osama bin Laden or the Taleban state this claim? This conflict is about Islamic fundamentalism and the fact that Afghanistan has been turned into a "base" for terrorist training and operations. Period!
This does make for an interesting read. America has been putting its size 11s into Afghanistan since the cold war and then turns and says the situation is nothing to do with them. Then we have people like Bill Douglass, USA who says that the Taleban declared war on the US. Funny that, I thought it was Osama bin Laden, a man who has been increasingly sidelined in this war debate.
As far as I can see the Afghan people had an extreme government forced on them, a government that stubbornly and stupidly sheltered a terrorist, a terrorist who declared war on the US. Added to that they have had outside forces interfering in their affairs for decades leaving them in a chronic 'war torn' state. All the while, America and the UK have hid behind the fašade of a moral quest to liberate the Afghanistan people from a corrupt government - if they mean this now is the time to act.
The government of Afghanistan (aka The Taleban) has declared war on the United States. The USA has every right to defend itself. We are not in Afghanistan for humitarian reasons, nor are we obligated to rebuild their pathetic war torn country. Our primary purpose is to destroy our enemy. After our objectives are completed, we may and will probably elect to return to our position as the top provider of humanitarian aid to that country.
There can be no real peace in Afghanistan until
Osama Bin Laden is arrested and put in jail. No matter
what anybody does...the ultimate solution has to include
the capture of this criminal, and any of his partners in
If people starve to death as a result of US intervention, the US will be partly responsible for this. Quite apart from moral issues, it's in the interests of the US to prevent this, otherwise it will only encourage future Bin Ladens to do the same thing.
To the West: This is one of those defining moments. Your decision will have far reaching consequences. It is convenient to say that Afghans are responsible for their current plight. That is not the entire truth, The common Afghans are a victim of the cold war and they continue to suffer. The coalition partners of today fought each other in this land and left this country to the many ethnic armies they had created. You have another chance, make amends and make your children proud.
Although aid is important, there is little point in trying to provide any until the Taleban are elinated. Up to now they have stolen or destroyed nearly all the aid sent to Afghanistan. Get the refugees out of Taleban reach into other countries and help them there. Once a real government is established in Afghanistan, Europe should certainly supply aid, as it is an effective anti-terror measure.
Dan, Doncaster, UK
The purpose and the main mission of the US led attack on Afghanistan was purely military and should not be construed as otherwise. The humanitarian catastrophy in Afghanistan is not of American making, because the refugees were there prior to September 11 attack on the US. The aid to the many hungry was to take place simultaneously but not at the expense of the original objective - namely elimination of an evil and senile regime that has shamelessly decided to harbour the murderer Osama Bin Laden without remorse. The Taliban has impoverished the citizens of Afganistan and no excuse can justify their callous behavior. Americans have a just course and they are doing what took them to Afganistan. Of course the needy Afganis need immediate assistance without the world being blind to the atrocities committed by the Taliban against fellow Afgans. As for Osama can any one ask him what Kenyans did to him to deserve the maiming and the carnage that he visited on our country?
It is clear that people are beginning to lose perspective on the Afghan question. The primary objectives of the anti-terror coalition's forces in the region is to hunt down al-Qaeda's leaders and to disrupt, diminish and destoy thier ability to operate. Aid for the people in Afghanistan was, and always will be, a secondary objective.
I've always believed that the US is not after justice, only revenge. This proves it. Having rode roughshod over this devastated country, killing and maiming innocents on the way, they're going to find their villain, kill him and get the hell out, leaving others to clean up after them.
The US may bleat that it is the biggest contributor to international aid, but what it doesn't say is that it has the lowest contribution per head of population of any country in the world.
Blair was a fool to follow Bush slavishly, now hopefully he will listen to the ministers and people of Britain, and get some aid to these poor civilians before Bush creates a disaster on a scale which will dwarf even the September 11 atrocity.
Afghanistan should be flooded with aid. The people there should see the immediate benefits of life without the Taliban. If conditions get worse then it will have all been a waste of time and money, not to mention the lives of hundreds of civilians. It is important to remember that the hijackers on the planes in America were not from Afghanistan, so it's people should not suffer for the crimes of others. American troops should stay out of the country, they have no record of humanitarian aid - only of failed invasions.
Agha, London, UK
Aid should really start in earnest now. Whereas America has already dropped a derisory amount of aid on Afghanistan, the vast amount of aid that's needed should really be expedited. Furthermore, it should cease to be transported in those nasty yellow containers. Why? Because cluster bombs and other ordinance also have the same yellow plastic wrapping, thereby causing children and other people desperate for aid to wrongly pick up the unexploded bombs and not the aid. Was this deliberate? Who knows, but it's a policy that should nonetheless cease forthwith.
The Taleban and al-Qaeda are still active and until such time that they are totally destroyed the US must continue to seek and terminate them wherever and whenever. I don't see any Islamic country giving aid to Afghanistan or indeed taking part in looking after the waves of refugees. Their silence is deafening.
In financial terms how much weaponry have the US dropped on the Afghans? Compare that to the cost of the "aid packages". Now tell me which takes precedent as far as the Americans are concerned. The notion that the US cares about the starving Afghan innocents is a sick joke.
As was the case before, we should open the doors to provide aid to the Afghan people because it is the right thing to do, and there should be no political agenda behind it. However, I think the priority for the US is to defend our people first by destroying the Taleban and al-Qaeda. Let the UN foot the bill for the aid, we have spent enough in the past 10 years on it and our efforts now are enough of a drain on the tax payers' money. As we saw in Somalia, it would be a grave mistake for our military forces to try and do the job of the UN for peacekeeping and aid. I think that it is more the responsibility of Islamic countries to provide aid. I feel that the criticism of our country is unfounded and that many Muslim countries should practice what they preach.
Actually Jim from Hoboken, the USA owes the UN vast amounts of unpaid dues. Maybe if the USA settled its debts the UN could pass the monies on to Afghanistan. That would be nicely circular.
T Skinner, Germany
The object of our dirty deeds in Afghanistan is to show the world that the USA is not above mass assassination if provoked by it, and that they are not particular about upon whom retribution is exacted. Handing out bombs in a bunch of flowers is just hypocritical. I wanted Dubya elected because he promised not to start wars to spread the American way of life, but what he has been provoked into doing is no better.
In the present scenario, I think the US is more concerned in getting Osama Bin Laden rather than doing more to assist the aid-effort.
Ms Short's behaviour makes her criticism of America a self-fulfilling prophecy. Her words were designed to cause conflict, instead of agreement. The only thing she is feeling in her heart is delight at an opportunity to advance her public exposure.
It is the responsibility of the west to enhance aid efforts. Because it is the western powers who are using Afghanistan for their own purpose. In the early 1990s, western powers left Afghans in disarray after successfully using them against the former Soviet Union. The work of reconstruction and rebuilding of destroyed Afghanistan must start at once. The west has destroyed Afghanistan for the sake of one suspect. The loss of innocent lives is irreparable but reconstruction and rebuilding can be done immediately.
Europe must do more to help the poor citizens of Afghanistan. If we do this, perhaps the Americans will follow our lead.
Aid should be supplied to regions that are safe and not under Taleban control. Rebuilding Afghanistan cannot begin until the Taleban and terrorists are eliminated.
Tim, Harrisburg, USA
No Tim, it's not Europe that has to take the leadership in helping the Afghans. It's the Americans, whose arrogance "gave them permission" to act as if they're the only ones on this planet. I know the Afghans suffer and they have been suffering for many years now, but the ones who wanted to "play" war have to face the consequences now.
Afghanistan was more than willing to welcome all the foreign Mujahideen when fighting against Russia. America was more than willing to provide arms and supplies to these Mujahideens during that war. Now we ask ourselves whether America has any moral obligation to provide aid! Not only has America and the whole world a moral obligation to provide aid, it also has an obligation not to deal with corrupt governments and ensure that aid reaches its appropriate destination. After all, the majority of these terrorists are bred as a result of poverty, ignorance and hunger.
The US may have destroyed the Taleban as a military force but have they removed the hostility with the politics and terror that it breeds? Without a new approach, nothing will be achieved in the long run. We should be looking at social and political reconstruction - with aid at its heart - sooner rather than later. Demonstrating that the West can be a good ally is as important as showing that it can be a fearsome enemy.
To Natassia Khan. Those Chechen, Pakistani and Saudi 'extremists' helped liberate Afghanistan from the Russians and are citizens of that country just like you are of Britain. If you are British then they are also Afghan. The foreign Taliban as they are now called were in fact the foreign mujahideen who never participated in the civil war or took up arms against the Afghan mujahideen. Now they are fighting alongside the Taliban because the Northern Alliance stands for tribalism, feudalism, communism and is totally unislamic.
The Pashtun Taleban are to blame for mixing Islam with Afghanistan's medieval traditions and culture which came from none other than the tyrant Ghengis Khan. According to the media, before the 9/11 attacks the Taleban were implementing a strict form of Sharia law, now they are implementing an evil law - how does that work? The Taleban are a product of a wretched country that knows nothing else but spilling blood; the foreigners had nothing to do with that.
Yasser Ajaz, you have no clue what you're saying. Those foreign terrorists were brought by al-Qaeda and Bin Laden, less than a quarter of them took part against the soviets. They have destroyed Afghanistan more than help recover it. They are not Afghan citizens. These foreigners - Chechens, Pakistanis, Arabs - are the ones who have encouraged the growth of the Taleban. The people of Afghanistan had nothing to do with breeding this regime, it is mainly the cause of Pakistan and Pakistani ISI support, plus Bin Laden's funding.
It's important both to provide huge amounts of aid and development funding over the next few decades AND to get rid of the foreign extremists who have done so much to destroy that country. Unless the extremists are removed, Afghanistan is doomed to replay its history over and over. The West needs to help Afghan civilians, eradicate the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, and turn its attention next to the countries from which the non-Afghan extremists are streaming: Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Chechnya. Afghanistan is paying the price for a wholly evil religious movement that originates elsewhere.
Pete Whitehead, London, UK
Win the war, sort out the political peace and then concentrate on aid.
The US turned its back on Afghanistan once before and look what happened. Will they never learn?
Sean Gibson, London, UK
The comment from Sean Gibson is beyond belief. How can he say it is not our country, not our problem ? If the situation in Afghanistan is ugly today, it is not because the people of Afghanistan are ugly. Afghanistan is not only the mirror of the Afghans it is the mirror of the world.
The murder of 5,000 people in America was avoidable. If the western world reacted to the situation in Afghanistan in 1997,98,99 0r 2000 -
the attacker of September 11th would have been denied an ability to terrorise the Afghans and the world.
If there is one thing we owe the victims of September 11th and innocent Afghan civilians it is that the desperate plight of people will not be ignored by the world.
Of course it should! This is something that should have been done many years ago by the West. To rebuild a country they left to ruin for decades is a tremendous crime. After the US versus USSR debacle, which saw Afghanistan as ultimately paying the price, the USA especially - along with allies - has a duty and obligation to help rebuild this shattered country. Not only to make amends for past lack of action, but also to help prevent any further support for terrorism in that country.
A well fed, educated and content people are far less likely to be swayed by the manipulations of terrorists. I just hope this time the West keeps its promises and delivers... and it isn't just some huge publicity stunt to be forgotten about once Joe Public's misgivings about the war have been appeased.
Charlie Hundal, Leeds UK
The primary goal is the capture of Osama bin Laden and the removal of the government that supports him. Until this goal has been achieved humanitarian aid must necessarily take second place. In a country where heroin seems to be the main crop one wonders how it was able to feed 20 million people in the past.
The people of Afghanistan are more important than Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaida.
The US, being the most powerful country, should be more confident in its pursuit of Osama and priority should be given to feed the hungry people of Afghanistan. It is also more important strategically, as people with full stomachs may try to think towards ending the war and helping the United States to find the most prized man: Osama Bin Laden.
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