“Silent Death in Central Afghanistan”

March 7, 2007

The daily Iqtidar-e-Milli in Kabul carried the above headline today, writing about areas in central Afghanistan that are virtually cut off from the outside world due to heavy snowfall. The newspaper laments the fact that more than five years after the process of reconstruction has began in Afghanistan, in certain parts of the country things have not changed at all. According to the report, lack of access to such basic needs as “health facilities, roads, and safe drinking water” has frustrated the local population and is eroding their faith in the new government.

Time to think seriously about the Kabul-Bamiyan-Cheghcharan-Herat highway? If and when completed by a confluence of miracles, unlikely political will, and generous international aid, the project is bound to lift the standard of living in much of central Afghanistan including Hazarajat from stone age levels, and cut down on precious east-west transit time that otherwise has to skirt around the country.

Separately, BBC reports casualties due to heavy snowfall in Western province of Herat. Even prayers are answered with a twist here.

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Opium Production Through the Roof – Again

March 7, 2007

One wonders whether the recent changes in US drug policy towards Afghanistan were in anticipation of this: the fact that for the second year in a row, opium production levels have reached new heights.

In the months leading up to this announcement by the US Department of State, the said agency announced the appointment of William B. Wood, formerly ambassador to the drug-ridden Colombia, as its new ambassador in Kabul. Separately, US government pressure increased on the GoA to allow invasive eradication procedures, which formerly took a backseat to interdiction efforts. At least one other senior US government official spoke of Colombia’s success in the fight against drugs as a model for Afghanistan.

Whether those changes were anticipating the new revelations or not, the fact remains that the fight against drugs in Afghanistan has been a dismal failure ever since day one of post-Taliban Afghanistan. In fact, Taliban had greater success in curbing poppy cultivation (albeit for other motives.)

The new announcement, however, comes with a bit of a good news caveat from the UN:

The UN says although production of poppies, used to make heroin, has fallen in the north and centre, a sharp rise is likely in the lawless south. (more from BBC)

I do know of Badakhshan having become a drug-infested province lately, but did not know of any provinces in the center with notable poppy cultivation. If the UN means Uruzgan, for all but geographical reasons that province is a southern one.

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Unrelated, ُSafrang is delighted by the newcomer on the block: Afghanistanica – an exploration of Afghanistan from a safe distance. Afghanistanica features some of the best written and best-backed-up blogging on Afghanistan you will see anywhere -and not only online backlinks. We only wish the blogger had activated commenting.