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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Facts about Afghanistan 

Coming from an agricultural province, it sort of helps put Afghanistan into perspective to find out that it has 200,000 hectares devoted to poppy production -- on a Canadian scale, that's about a third of the land planted to crops in British Columbia -- and that almost 90 per cent of the world's opium comes from Afghanistan's fields -- and of course one can only speculate on the percentage of Canadian pot production which comes from BC!
Anyway, over at Informed Comment, Juan Cole posts about the Kabul riot today which killed 14 people. In his post, he also provides some facts about Afghanistan that should be more widely known than they are:
. . . The US military presence in Afghanistan has quietly been pumped up from 19,000 to 23,000 troops . . . Over 400 Afghans have been killed by US bombing and military actions in only the past two weeks. While most of these are Pushtun nativist guerrillas (coded by the US as "Taliban"), some have demonstrably been innocent civilians . . . the Pushtun guerrillas have been waging a very effective terror campaign in the countryside around Qandahar, and have launched a fierce series of spring offensives . . . While most anti-US actions in Afghanistan come from the Pushtun ethnic group, these Kabul protests, which paralyzed the capital and resulted in the imposition of a curfew, heavily involved Tajiks. Kabul is a largely Tajik city, and the Tajiks mostly hated the Taliban with a passion, and many high officials in the Karzai government have been Tajik. So they haven't been as upset with the US invasion and presence as have been many Pushtuns, especially those Pushtuns who either supported the Taliban or just can't abide foreign troops in their country . . . Significant numbers of Tajiks are clearly now turning against the US, and that is a very bad sign indeed . . . Pushtuns are 42 % of the population and Tajiks 27 %. Pushtuns have usually supplied the top rulers . . .
Despite Bush administration pledges to reconstruct the country, only six percent of Afghans have access to electricity. Less than 20 percent have access to clean water. Although the gross domestic product has grown by 80 percent since the nadir of 2001, and may be $7 billion next year, most of that increase comes from the drug trade or from foreign assistance . . . About half the economy of Afghanistan is generated by the poppy crop, which becomes opium and then heroin in Europe. Afghanistan produces 87 percent of the world's opium and heroin, and no other country comes close in its dedication of agricultural land to drug production (over 200,000 hectares).
The government lives on international welfare. Some 92 percent of Afghan government expenditures come from foreign assistance. The Afghan government is worse at collecting taxes than fourth world countries in subsaharan Africa. Unemployment remains at 35 percent. Unemployment is estimated to have been 25 percent in the US during the Great Depression.
The great danger is renewed Muslim radicalism and the reemergence of al-Qaeda, combined with a narco-terrorism that could make Colombia's FARC look like minor players.
Cole also notes that US media don't want to talk about how NATO troops are being killed and injured in Afghanistan, including of course Canadian troops but also troops from France -- and it is odd to me how France is still targeted by US commentators and comedians as a nation of cheese-eating surrender monkeys while their soldiers are fighting and dying in Afghanistan, as are ours.

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