Child Malnutrition Rises in Afghanistan as Obama Renews "Commitment" to Rebuild
As the US continues to strenuously ignore and underfund the only development program in the country which works cheaply and effectively, the Afghan National Solidarity Program (NSP,) which is at arm's length from the Karzai government and which gets management help from the World Bank, and as it has instead wasted around $15 billion since 2001 on showcase projects that Afghans never asked for, using Washington-connected American contractors who take 40% or more in profit before the work ever begins, child malnutrition has edged up in the country from 54% in 2005 according to the World Bank to 60% according to Save the Children in a recent NBC News report. The grim statistic follows the recent freezing deaths of dozens of children under age five from the bitter cold in the squalid refugee camps in and around Kabul, the most secure area in the country.
The World Bank reports that 60% of Afghan children suffer from stunted growth.
In a report in the Fall of 2011, "Afghans are bitterly disappointed by broken promises" by the German media outlet DW, the author writes:
Ten years ago, Afghans were taken in by the promises made by the United States. They believed Washington when it said the military operation was not directed against them but against al Qaeda and the Taliban and that Mullah Omar's regime would be replaced by an elected government. After 20 years of war, they believed the promise that Afghanistan's reconstruction would bring security and well-being.
Now the Taliban are back on the scene and peace seems very far off. Many Afghans are baffled by the fact that the tens of thousands NATO-led troops have not been able to restore order and stability...Another thing people wonder about is why seven million Afghans have to suffer from hunger although billions of US dollars have been pumped into the reconstruction efforts...
"just $15 billion in aid has so far been spent, of which it is estimated a staggering 40 percent has returned to donor countries in corporate profits and consultant salaries"
In the midst of the fall-out over the burning of a large number of Qurans at a US military base, the Obama administration issued a statement declaring that the American "commitment" to rebuilding Afghanistan continues, with US Ambassador Ryan Crocker saying, in an outlandishly titled, uncritically-reported AP write-up "US says it's steadfast in rebuilding Afghanistan":
"We have got to redouble our efforts. We've got to create a situation in which al-Qaida is not coming back."
Two-thirds to three quarters of Afghans still do not have access to safe drinking water, although these kinds of projects would be among the easiest to implement and would involve hiring large numbers of unemployed Afghans. And so strong is the US "commitment" to help rebuild the country it has occupied for ten years that its support for an organization which runs 11 orphanages will be terminated at the end of this month, in a country with one of the highest number of war orphans in the world. Now that's heart.
News Flash: The US is not and never has been concerned with rebuilding Afghanistan. Even the U.S. Special Inspector General for the Afghanistan Reconstruction has said of the National Solidarity Program (NSP):
"We found that [the controls instituted by the NSP] provided reasonable assurance that NSP funds were used as intended."
The NSP focuses on many small, basic infrastructure projects like irrigation, clearing the canals, clean water projects, and improving dirt roads. This helps all other parts of the traditional economy of agriculture and small business. Labor is provided by Afghans wherever possible.
In the meantime $2 billion per WEEK in military hardware and military supplies crisscrosses the country by truck convoy, and the Pentagon pays insurgents hundreds of millions of dollars a year to let it through unmolested, thus making the Taliban stronger and enabling it to buy more weapons. No wonder Afghans are mad.
Rep. John Tierney's Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs reports in "Warlord, Inc," that supply missions in Afghanistan consist of:
"roughly 6,000 to 8,000 truck missions per month. The trucks carry food, supplies, fuel, ammunition, and even Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles (MRAPs)."
The Subcommittee writes:
"Military logistics officers are responsible for providing the troops with the food, water, shelter, weapons, ammunition, and fuel they need to perform their duties. To put the scope of the logistics operation into perspective, U.S. and NATO forces required 1.1 million gallons of fuel per day in 2009. That year, as troop levels grew from 31,800 to 68,000, U.S. military and contractor planes delivered 187,394 tons of cargo. Given that the backbone of the military’s distribution network is overland, the cargo transported by trucks is nearly ten times that amount. Eighty percent of goods and materiel reach Afghanistan by land."
When the Quran gets burned it's the straw which breaks the camel's back. The child malnutrition rate in a country where $2 billion a week in cargo crosses the country to military bases might perhaps not go down much, although this too is inexcusable, but it should certainly not go up. Redirect one month's worth of military spending to the National Solidarity Program, through the World Bank which manages donor nations' contributions, and stability in Afghanistan will follow as troops withdraw. Instead the NSP is chronically short of funds to complete projects, even though its minister has come to Congress begging for funds and to explain his strategy.
Best of all, in the middle of such misery, guess who is always hiring and paying the good wage of $10 a day? The Taliban!
As I argued last week, US neglect of basic needs in Afghanistan is not only immoral; it is in clear violation of the Geneva Conventions.
What the US is doing is a recipe for further war and instability. War is profitable. Nothing comes close to the rate you can bilk the taxpayers at than in war. Why things remain the same is obvious: this is exactly the way Congress and the president want it, for their campaign contributors in the war business. After ten years the verdict is in.
"War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives... A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small 'inside' group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes." - Double Medal of Honor winner Marine Corp General Smedley Butler , in his book "War is a Racket."
The Afghan National Solidarity Program
The author is co-founder of Jobs for Afghans.
A CRASH COURSE IN AFGHANISTAN:
"Afghans are bitterly disappointed by broken promises"
"$2 Billion a week in war costs (not civilian aid), most expensive war in history"
Department of Defense Funding the Taliban - CBS News:
Children freezing to death, New York Times:
NBC News: 60% of Afghan Children Malnourished:
Video on the Afghan National Solidarity Program
"The Road to Taliban Land" by Ann Jones:
For more information: