Peacekeeping: Do-Gooders Under Fire

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April 22,2008: For the last six years, the Taliban have been trying to get Indian reconstruction staff out of Afghanistan. About a dozen Indians have been killed or seriously injured by Taliban attacks. Currently, there are about 4,000 Indians in Afghanistan, working an several major projects (road building and erecting electrical transmission lines, for example) and dozens of smaller ones. So far, India has contributed $750 million to Afghan reconstruction (placing it 5th among donors).

To protect its aid workers, India has sent in security personnel. This made Indians more difficult targets, and the Taliban have instead gone after Afghans who are reluctant to support the Islamic radicals. Then there are the Afghan security forces and the foreign (U.S. and NATO) troops to worry about. Thus as long as the Indian security forces are vigilant, the Taliban don't bother much anymore. This despite Pakistani pleas for some action against the Indians. The Afghans, even the Taliban, resent Pakistanis telling them what to do. While all Islamic conservatives hate the Indians (at least the non-Moslem ones), destroying aid operations is only part of the effort to overthrow the current government, and put the Taliban back into control. Most Afghans like the aid and reconstruction operations, and resent Taliban efforts to halt these efforts (because such aid is seen as giving support to the government). The average Afghan out in the countryside cares less about the government, and more about new roads, getting electricity and having access to medical care or emergency food supplies. Indians supply all of that, as do aid workers from over a dozen other countries.

Attacks on aid workers have doubled in the last year, and are now running at the rate of 2-3 a month. This is miniscule in comparison to the three dozen or so attacks a month against security forces, foreign troops and government officials. About half (maybe two-thirds) of the attacks on the NGOs are politically motivated, with the rest being common crime. There's a lot of bandit activity out in the countryside. Always has been. Why do you think so many Afghan men have guns, and so many of the country homes look like little fortresses? Afghanistan is not a friendly place for strangers. Never has been. And that explains a lot about what is going on there now.

 


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