Life in Afghanistan — Or Not

AFGHANchildSorry about the light posting lately, but I’m trying to keep my typing at a minimum for a little longer while the shoulder heals. Believe me, I’ve got lots and lots of ideas for posts. But until I can get them written up, I recommend you take a few minutes and read this article from TruthOut:

Why Do Afghans Have a Life Expectancy of Only 44 Years?

According to the CIA World Factbook, an Afghan’s life expectancy is merely 44 years. That’s 20 to 30 years fewer than neighboring Pakistan and all other surrounding countries. It is just one result of the ongoing devastation in that country.

The war in Afghanistan did not start in 2001 with the US invasion. It began 30 years ago in December 1979, when the former Soviet Union invaded the country. The human toll of the conflict is staggering: More than a million Afghans have been killed and 3 million maimed.

Five million (one third of the pre-war population) were forced to leave their country and became refugees. There are still 3.1 million Afghan refugees today, making up 27 percent of the global refugee population. Most of them live in Pakistan. Another two million Afghans were displaced within the country. In the 1980s, one out of two refugees in the world was an Afghan.

Most Afghans alive today have seen nothing but war.

Daily life in Afghanistan is miserable. Only six percent have electricity in a country which gets as cold as Chicago in winter. Even in Kabul, the country’s capital, electricity comes for only a few hours a day. Traditional wood heating is difficult since not much wood is left in Afghanistan after 30 years of wars and forest devastation. Over 1,000 people died because of cold weather last year.

“About two million state school students do not have access to safe drinking water and about 75 percent of these schools in Afghanistan do not have safe sanitation facilities,” according to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).There is no law and order in most of Afghanistan. Government barely exists in Kabul. Former warlords are the leaders. That is demonstrated by the fact that “Afghanistan is the world’s largest cultivator and supplier of opium (93 percent of the global opiates market), according to the [Afghanistan Opium Survey 2008] by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.” [A British daily paper] actually reported that “the four largest players in the heroin business are all senior members of the Afghan government.”

One could almost say that Afghanistan has become this American generation’s Vietnam, except that with an “all volunteer” military, most of us live our lives in ignorant bliss of the realities in Afghanistan. You see a 3- minute story on the evening news, you catch a brief headline, and that’s about it for most of us. But President Obama has decided to send 21,000 additional troops to Afghanistan, moving further down the path of a military answer to the problem of Afghanistan. But as this article also states:

If the British Empire in the 19th century could not succeed in occupying Afghanistan despite close to a century of war on and off, and the Soviets failed to do the same during the 20th century, we cannot win either. Isn’t it about time that we Americans in the 21st century rethink the “good war” in Afghanistan? After seven years of going nowhere, it is surely time for a new strategy.

Consider this: If the Soviets, with 120,000 troops at any given time (500,000 total) could not do it, how can we with only 60,000? An increase of 20,000 to 30,000 American soldiers is unlikely to achieve military victory.

Read the entire article here.

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