- Population: 32million - a typical stage 2 country on the DTM as the Birth rate remains high while death rates have decreased significantly
- Population growth 3.9% per annum from 2000-2005 and is now 2.6%
- 45% of the population is under 15 and only 2% over 65 - the infant mortality rate is the highest in the world at 166 per 1000 live births. The fertility rate is 6.8
- Economy based on subsistence agriculture - the best land is currently used for growing illegal poppies for the production of Heroin
- Relatively sparsely populated at 42per km2 - most people live in rural areas and 20% are nomadic. Of the 22% urban dwellers, most live in Kabul or Herat
Urban population growth reates are even higher than the national average at 69%, the reult of high natural increase and migration. this is complicated by people migrating in attempts to escape the violence. War has been constant for the last 20 years - 3 million people have died in war since 1988 while 6 million have crossed into PAkistan and Iran in search of safety. These characteristics are unlikely to change until a long period of peace with external aid allows the economy to develop.
When the Taliban took over in 1996, educational and career opportunities for women/girls ended. Under the Taliban, a woman's place was at home. Girls' schools were closed and professional women were no longer allowed to work. Women had no access to medical attention, as male doctors were not allowed to treat them.
No Development without Security
One aim of deploying forces there is to create a more stable environment in which a democratic and prosperous society can develop. Better security means that essential work, such as the building and repairing of vital roads, can begin. This allows the transportation and export of goods produced in the country and an easier, more efficient distribution of aid to the areas where it is needed. The only products that can survive the uncertain journey at present are opium and hashish, generating around 60% of the country' economy. Afghanisation is the source of 95% of the 30tonnes of heroin used in the UK each year and it is hard to know how much of the omney made by those who traffic it is financing the Taliban.
£1.5billion spent each year combating the imapct of drug use in the UK - this ranges from drug awareness campaings and school drug policies to building cold storage sheds in other countries to allow thorough border searches of refrigerated lorries. In the long run it is in the public's interest to reduce the amount of heroin avaliable and therefore the number of addicts. One way to do this is to provide the afghan farmer currently growing opium poppies with alterenative reasonably paid work such as road construction.
Large sums of money have already gone into Afghanistan and almsot everything, from the wages or government officials to it its IT systems, is paid for by other nations. The country does not generate enough money to operate as a modern democracy.
No Development without Security
Much of the aid has disappeared. Helmand province was supposed to recieve$55million of 'alternative livelihood' development in 2005, but there is no real evidence of investment. However, even this amount of aid does not match the amount the opium producers would have earned. Apart, from the income it generates, local people continue to grow opium for fear of the Taliban and the drug traffickers.
Had more investment been made in Afghanistan following the 2001 invasion, the situation might have been different. As it is, a propeor assessment of the needs of Afghanistan is required, followed by adequate investment. The Afghan government must expose and prosecute officials engaged in trafficking and corruption. Increased military assistance is vital (especially the training of Afghan personnel) to prevent the shifting of opium growing to more remote and poorly policed areas. There was a decline of production in Helmand of 10% in 2005 but an increase of 1370% in neighbouring Nimroz. Only a heavy presence could prevent this.
No Security without Development
The failure of international aid ot make a difference to Afghanistan is having serious security consequences. A recent red cross report showed that the worsening conflict in the South is spreading to the north and west, alongside an upsurge of suicide bombing in Kabul.
The amount of money promised per head for Afghanistan was far lower than in other recent post-conflict countries, and too little of it has gone into increasing the capacity of the Afghan government to run things for itself. The world Bank warned of the dangers of an aid juggernaut, a parallel world operating outside the government economy, with Afghans not even able to bid for major infrastrucutre contracts such as roads. The quality of much of what has been delviered remains low. Schools that officially have been rebuilt are still teachin girls in tents in the mud.
There have been some successes. President Karzai often reminds audiences that 40,000 Afghna babies would not be alvie today but for improvements in healthcare. Some aid for basic services is successfully going through the state. 1 in 10 Afghan teachers has their salaries paid by British taxpayers, but as far as the teachers are concerned, they are paid from the Afghan Education Department. Some small rural schemes are being built through the National Solidarity Programme, an international aid fun managed and distributed by the Afghan governemnt. On a larger scale, in the summer of 2008, a huge HEP turbine was transported through Taliban territory in an attempt to improve electricity supplies in the Helman region
No Security without Development
The Americans are beginning to put more of their aid money through the government. However, the change is slow. Most international officials and consultants in Afghanistan are on high salaries and short-term contracts. This means that much of the aid to Afghanistan goes straight back to donor countries in the form of salaries.
The Afghan government is concerned that the internaional community will not allow Afghanistan to determine aid priortiies for itself. Rather than helping to fun the coordination unit for the eradication of heroin requested by the Counter-Narcotic Ministry, Britain is funding a project for aerial photography that will cost more than $10million. The ministry would have preferred to use the money to employ local people to survery the poppy-growing areas on the ground.
Other concerns have been raised over a fund designed to provide livelihoods for poppy farmers. Of $70million earmarked for thsi project, little more than $1million has actually been spent. Afghan officials blame bureaucratic obstacles for this. The UK foreign office admiitted that there have been 'teething problems' for a fund that si operating 'in a challenging environment'. Behind the citicism about spending, lies a moreserious concern that the counter-narcotics policy is not working. Poppy cultivation in Afghanistan is on the increase again, and rising fastest in areas under British control. A number of officials believe that the problem is now out of control, and theat the international community has lost the war on drugs