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Afghanistan Too Dangerous for Aid Workers

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    Leaked aid map of Afghanistan reveals expansion of no-go zones Nick Meo in Kabul The Times December 5, 2007
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 5, 2007
      Leaked aid map of Afghanistan reveals expansion of no-go zones
      Nick Meo in Kabul
      The Times
      December 5, 2007
      http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/article3000067.ece


      Almost half of Afghanistan is now too dangerous for aid workers to
      operate in, a leaked UN map seen by The Times shows.

      In the past two years most foreign and Afghan staff have withdrawn
      from the southern half of the country, abandoning or scaling back
      development projects in rural areas and confining themselves to the
      cities or the less risky north. The pullback compounds the problems of
      the Government in Kabul, which has struggled to extend its authority
      to the regions and provinces, which are increasingly lawless or
      Taleban controlled.

      Development has always been touted as a key factor in Western efforts
      to win over Afghans and bolster support for President Karzai but in
      the past six years little has been done on the ground in the critical
      south and east.

      The failure to help ordinary Afghans or to rebuild areas damaged by
      fighting in provinces such as Helmand has caused huge resentment and
      is exploited by Taleban propaganda.

      The unpublished map, acquired by The Times in Kabul, is for UN staff
      and aid workers and illustrates risk levels across the nation. It
      shows a marked deterioration in security since 2005, when compared
      with a similar map from March of that year.

      Then only a strip along the Pakistan border and areas of mountainous
      Zabul and Uruzgan provinces in the south were too dangerous for aid
      workers. Now nearly all the ethnic Pashtun south and east is a no-go
      zone categorised as high or extreme risk and there are even pockets in
      the north of the country that are becoming dangerous for aid workers.

      In the past two years nearly 40 Afghan and several foreign aid workers
      have been killed. The threat comes from the resurgent Taleban, which
      increasingly targets projects, and from bandits.

      The map has emerged after a row in Kabul about just how much of the
      country the Taleban now controls.

      A report by the Senlis Council, a think-tank, last week claimed that
      the rebels have a presence in half the country. An opinion poll
      published on Monday found that only 42 per cent of Afghans rate US
      efforts positively compared with 68 per cent in 2005, and also
      suggested that support for the Taleban was growing.

      Brigadier-General Carlos Branco, an ISAF spokesman, insisted yesterday
      that the Taleban controls only five out of fifty-nine districts in
      southern Afghanistan. But the withdrawal of aid workers is undeniable.

      Matt Waldman, the Kabul-based Oxfam policy adviser, said that the
      organisation had withdrawn all its staff from southern Afghanistan in
      June because of safety fears. He said that the decision had been a
      painful one, adding: "Peace in Afghanistan cannot be achieved without
      more determined efforts to reduce poverty, and urgent measures must be
      taken to enhance aid effectiveness."

      Nato has taken on much development work in dangerous areas through
      provincial reconstruction teams, in which soldiers build schools or
      dig wells as part of a "hearts and minds" programme. Aid professionals
      say that much of their work is poor. The other main method of carrying
      out development work in the south is through for-profit corporations
      whose staff venture out only in armed cars protected by heavily armed
      mercenaries.

      Nic Lee, from the Afghanistan NGO Safety Office, said: "It is getting
      worse. The Taleban are making significant inroads in provincial centres."


      –– A British soldier was killed in an explosion in southern
      Afghanistan yesterday. Two other soldiers were injured (Michael Evans
      writes).

      The dead soldier was from 5 Regiment Royal Artillery and he was on a
      reconnaissance operation to the north of Sangin in Helmand province
      when a roadside bomb exploded.

      His next of kin have been informed. He was the 85th soldier to die in
      Afghanistan since October 2001 and the 59th to die from enemy action.

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