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Under wraps

"Under wraps" Continued...

Issue: "Our long war," March 8, 2008

But the terrain has been treacherous for Joya since: She has survived four assassination attempts and was suspended from Parliament in May 2007 for openly criticizing its members, many of whom she calls "warlords."

"They expelled me from Parliament, which is an illegal act. It's anti-freedom and anti-speech-integral parts of democracy," Joya told WORLD.

"Those men who are militia commanders, the former so-called mujahideen or warlords, were re-empowered by the United States after the fall of the Taliban and now occupy prominent positions in the government, most notably in the Parliament," Kolhatkar said. "They govern their provinces with an iron hand and are very Taliban-like in nature."

Groups such as the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) concur: "'War on terrorism' has removed the Taliban, but it has not removed religious fundamentalism which is the main cause of all our miseries," RAWA's website states. "In fact, by reinstalling the warlords in power in Afghanistan, the U.S. is ultimately replacing one fundamentalist regime with another."

At the same time, according to Kolhatkar, the general consensus is that President Hamid Karzai is weak: "They call him the mayor of Kabul rather than the president of the country."

Despite the millions of dollars being poured into the country, only small numbers of Afghans-primarily those in metropolitan areas-have experienced improvements. More than 1,600 NGOs, which came to Afghanistan with charitable contributions or government contracts or a combination of both, have left Afghanistan since 2001, according to the unnamed Kabul worker.

"Some [NGOs] came here without accountability and just blew a wad," he said. "It's a heartbreaking situation. There's a 60 percent unemployment rate. It's been a tough winter." Almost 1,000 Afghans have died from extreme temperatures and massive snowfall in one of the worst winters in 30 years. The loss of hundreds of thousands of cattle have further crippled the country's fledgling economy.

Kolhatkar said, "In Kabul things are definitely a little bit better, but that's one city in the entire country. Outside of Kabul, where the media doesn't really pay much attention, things are terrible. There are almost no schools, no health care and no employment." In some regions, sexual assaults against women are on the rise, as are cases of women burning themselves to death.

Kolhatkar said NGO groups have missed or abandoned opportunities to develop income-generating projects and employment alternatives to Afghanistan's rampant opium production: "This is hard work. It doesn't fit on a placard, and it doesn't fit in a slogan. It's a complex formula, but it's the only option."

Next month the United States plans to add 3,200 more Marines to its 28,000 soldiers already stationed in Afghanistan, but efforts to garner increased troop commitments from NATO allies have proved unsuccessful.

NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer claims recent mass-casualty suicide bombings are a propaganda tool used by militants to sway public opinion among NATO nations with troops in Afghanistan. He has called on the international community to exercise "patience with a capital 'P'" and is working on a "comprehensive military strategy" to be presented to President Bush and other leaders at an April NATO summit in Romania.

But with Afghanistan's problems entangled in a web of Islamic law, rampant poverty, and drugs, it will take more than patience to win this war.

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