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The good luck of traumatised Afghanistan - Guardian, UK

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  • Zafar Khan
    The good luck of traumatised Afghanistan Simon Tisdall Friday February 25, 2005 The Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/afghanistan/story/0,1284,1424800,00.html
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 28 1:28 PM
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      The good luck of traumatised Afghanistan

      Simon Tisdall
      Friday February 25, 2005
      The Guardian


      One woman dies from pregnancy-related causes
      approximately every 30 minutes. One in five children
      dies before the age of five from diseases that are 80%

      An estimated one-third of the population suffers from
      anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress. Annual
      per capita income is $190 (£100). Average life
      expectancy is 44.5 years. Its education system is now
      "the worst in the world".

      These are just a few of the findings contained in a
      United Nations Development Programme report on
      Afghanistan published this week.

      More than three years after the US and Britain
      declared victory in Kabul and promised to rebuild the
      country, it paints a disturbing portrait of "a fragile
      nation still at odds if no longer at war with itself
      that could easily slip back into chaos and abject

      Not all is gloom. The report says Afghanistan's
      economy has expanded significantly since 2001. Nearly
      55% of primary-age children are now in school.

      About 2.4 million refugees have returned from Pakistan
      and Iran. The new constitution guarantees equal rights
      for women. And a democratically elected president
      holds office, although "factional elements" with their
      own militias still control much of the country.

      Afghanistan's woes long predate the US war against the
      Taliban, stretching back to the 1979 Soviet invasion.
      But this present-day audit dramatically demonstrates
      the daunting scale of the reconstruction effort to
      which the west has pledged itself.

      In one respect, Afghanistan is fortunate. Despite
      problems over merging US and Nato forces, the
      deployment of "provincial reconstruction teams",
      squandered aid and a booming heroin trade, a
      reasonably coherent and agreed long-term international
      strategy for Afghanistan does actually exist.

      This is not usually the case elsewhere. For the UN's
      findings also indirectly illustrate a more fundamental
      dilemma facing other so-called transitional states
      such as Iraq, Palestine, East Timor, Kosovo and Haiti
      as well as less extreme cases like Ukraine.

      While the international community's appetite for
      transformational nation-building, stimulated by
      President George Bush's crusade for global freedom,
      shows no sign of satiation, it habitually bites off
      more than it can chew.

      Now the growing institutional rivalry between the US
      and Europe, not dispelled by this week's Brussels
      summitry, is in danger of further undermining
      collective efforts.

      The minimalist Nato agreement on military and police
      training in Iraq, with France grudgingly agreeing to
      contribute one mid-level headquarters officer, gave
      the lie to claims that Euro-Atlantic war wounds have
      healed. Five leading EU countries still refuse point
      blank to let their soldiers set foot in Iraq.

      The EU decision to launch a civilian training mission
      in Baghdad only served as a reminder of Europe's
      rising ambition to act as an independent international

      Europe's use of trade incentives with Iran and Syria,
      on which the US has imposed trade sanctions, and its
      attempts to engage North Korea also exemplify this
      diverging diplomatic and philosophical approach.

      It is these structural problems that Gerhard Schröder
      addressed in his recent speech on facilitating the
      Euro-Atlantic dialogue. The German chancellor's call
      for "a strong European pillar" with equal
      responsibilities was interpreted as widening the
      transatlantic divide.

      In fact his speech was a timely if clumsy attempt to
      close the gap by building more coherent joint
      platforms for managing the growing list of
      nation-building and aid projects which, if Mr Bush has
      his way, could one day include Zimbabwe, Sudan, North
      Korea, Burma and Belarus.

      The US and Europe must work together more effectively,
      Mr Schröder said. "We should focus with determination
      on adapting our cooperation structures to changed
      conditions and challenges.

      "We need a strong multilateral system which provides a
      reliable framework for solidarity and guarantees good
      global governance." If that upset existing hierarchies
      such as Nato, he seemed to say, well, tough.

      His reform proposals have been met with shrugs in
      Britain and the US, although not in France. But Mr
      Schröder put his finger on a problem that will have to
      be addressed sooner or later. The children of
      Afghanistan would say sooner.

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