View Full Version : [Afghan News] February 6, 2012

03-03-2012, 04:32 AM
Opium: Afghanistan's new front line
War torn and ravaged by division, Afghanistan has become the focus for the worldwide fight against child drug addiction
The Independent By Lianne Gutcher Monday 06 February 2012
Mazar-e-Sharif - By the time she was 22, Shukofar had suffered nine miscarriages. She carried the babies until about six months, before losing them all. Poor, uneducated and lacking access to proper medical care, she turned to the fix-all panacea in rural Afghanistan: opium. Smoking the drug, she was told, would keep her calm, stop any bleeding and allow her to carry to full term.
By the time she eventually gave birth to her first son, Shukofar was an addict.
Like many new mothers, she was constantly exhausted after the birth of her baby, and so she gave the child opium too, to keep him quiet and allow her to rest. Baby Nasruallah became an addict, as did her second child, Jaweed.
Shukofar, now 28, is pregnant again. But she is determined to be a better mother. Along with her children, now five and two, she is undergoing treatment at a revolutionary drug rehabilitation centre in Mazar-e-Sharif in northern Afghanistan, one of only six centres for women and children in a country with a drugs problem that no one yet quite knows the scale of. "I wanted to sleep all the time," Shukofar said, describing life as an opium addict: "I couldn't take care of my two children. Now I am better than before. Now I feel like I am a [proper] mother and I take care of my children."
Shukofar and her children are fortunate. The waiting list for treatment is lengthy and there are only 20 beds for women and 15 for children. The oldest child having treatment is 12 years old.
Researchers started looking into the problem of child drug addiction in Afghanistan in 2008. Over two years, they went into the homes of 50 known opium smokers to assess whether the children were affected too. In the first year, 61 per cent of children tested positive for opiates. In the second year, 74 per cent tested positive.
"We found everything saturated in opium smoke," said Thom Browne, chief of the Office of Anticrime Programme's Criminal Justice Division at the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL).
They established the children were becoming addicted in a number of ways: they were inhaling their parents' second-hand smoke; they were absorbing it through their skin because it was on toys, blankets and pillows and parents
were giving it to them as a medicine and pain reliever. Parents were also giving them heroin paste as a "babysitting" method so they could work weaving carpets. In some provinces, during the opium harvest, farmers would also have their children score the poppy and, again, they would absorb it through their skin.
"They built up such high tolerance that the levels inside both the adults and children would actually kill a western addict," said Mr Browne. "Our researchers said they had never actually seen levels this high."
Aid groups in Afghanistan have expressed concern that despite billions being poured into the country in aid, a large proportion of the next generation – in a country where in some rural villages all the population is addicted to opiates – will be addicted to drugs.
But a silver lining exists. Although the research has identified a horrifying epidemic, the research now being done in Afghanistan on how to treat child addicts is starting to be used as a blueprint for the rest of the world.
"No one ever thought to look for child addiction before," said Mr Browne. "Unfortunately, as we are looking more, we are starting to find it."
Researchers are now finding children as young as five to eight addicted to crack cocaine in Brazil, with similar problems suspected in Chile, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, as well as child soldiers in Africa addicted to amphetamines given to them to boost their confidence.
Afghanistan gets "beaten up in the press for having 93 per cent of the world's opium supply," said Mr Browne. "But it's at the forefront of developing protocols for child addiction that have never been done before." It is a gradual process, but the lessons learned in Afghanistan are now being preached around the world. French paediatric surgeons working in Afghanistan told the international researchers at a UN meeting in Vienna in March 2011 that they were "astounded" by the levels of anaesthesia required to knock a child out in order to operate. They had never considered testing children so young for drugs, but can now administer safer levels of anaesthetic.
Recovering child addicts are very different from their non-addicted peers, explained Dr Abdul Mobeen, programme director of Shahamat Health and Rehabilitation Organisation, working in his clinic in Mazar-e-Sharif: "The children are mentally undeveloped [and] they don't like to get involved in activities. They don't want to play, they don't want to learn. They like to sit in a dark place and don't want to mix with other children."
Pewaly Loden, who is a teacher at the treatment centre said: "These children, their parents are also addicts. Their mothers and fathers don't pay attention to them or take care of them. It's new for them, the things we do for them."
Because they know no other existence, the children do not really understand that they are addicts. But they are taught, during their treatment, that drugs are bad, that they are dangerous and that they should not use them.
It is this research that those at the coalface of treating addicted children are hoping will provide answers for children around the world. INL researchers are also monitoring patients during their reintegration into the community and are conducting hair and urine tests on patients to assess whether, one year after the treatment is over, they are still drug free.
"We want to determine if the treatment model we're using is effective in helping to reduce relapse and drug use rates," said INL's Mr Browne.
INL along with the World Health Organisation, the UNODC – the UN's drug and crime division – the Medical University of Vienna, and Johns Hopkins University is studying the children over the long term, research that they hope will eventually lead to the successful treatment of children in Afghanistan, and in the other areas afflicted by high incidents of drug-addicted children.
"Addiction to hard drugs at these ages has never been seen before," said Mr Browne." It's going to have to be a lifetime study following the kids. Drugs are bad for anyone – we're talking about your heart, your liver, your lungs. Conception through early childhood is a period of rapid brain development. The results of exposure to drugs in the womb, during infancy and childhood can result in lifelong problems with learning, behaviour and development."
Back at the treatment centre, we find 10-year-old Habib. According to the doctors, he was in a pretty bad state when he came in with his mother but he has progressed well. He now even takes newly admitted children under his wing and tells them they are going to be ok.
"I would like to stay here for a long time," Habib said. "I am better than before. I am happy and I don't use opium.
"When I finish my treatment I will go back home and find new friends who are not addicts," the former young addict said.

Pakistani Prime Minister In Qatar To Discuss Afghan Peace Deal
February 6, 2012 mRadio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani has arrived in Qatar for planned talks on a possible peace deal to end the 10-year war in Afghanistan.
Qatar's state news agency QNA said Gilani arrived in Doha for a three-day official visit to the Gulf country.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Abdul Basit told RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal that Gilani's visit will involve both bilateral talks with Qatari officials, as well as a broader discussion on Afghanistan.
Gilani's trip comes several days after Pakistan's foreign minister, Hina Rabbani Khar, returned from talks in Afghanistan saying Pakistan could help assist the Taliban and other insurgent groups launch peace talks.
Pakistan has been accused of hampering peace efforts in Afghanistan by assisting militants from the Taliban and Haqqani network.
A classified NATO report obtained by news agencies last week alleged that Pakistan's intelligence agency, the ISI, is "intimately involved" with helping the Afghan insurgency direct attacks against foreign troops.
The Afghan Taliban last month announced it was establishing a political office in Qatar, a move seen as progress toward direct peace talks.

No Secret Talks with Anti-Government Armed Groups: Abdullah By Rafi Sediqi Sunday, 05 February 2012
Peace talks with anti-government armed groups should not be held secretly, Leader of the Change and Hope Coalition said on Sunday.
Leader of Change and Hope Coalition, Dr Abdullah Abdullah, criticised the peace process arguing that neither Afghan political parties, nor civil society or the people in general are part of it. He said the Afghan government does not have a transparent programme for peace talks.
Dr Abdullah made the comments while speaking at a gathering in Kabul marking the birth anniversary of Prophet Mohammed.
He said the government has to keep people informed on how and on what conditions peace talks will be held.
"Playing with the great wish of the Afghan people which is peace in the county is a political game. If a political game is played, whether at the regional or international level, it will not only lead to peace but will also distance us from peace," the Leader of Change and Hope Coalition said.
Meanwhile, some members of parliament warned that if no proper measures are taken, the country will be faced with a catastrophe beyond 2014 when all foreign forces will be withdrawn.
Afghan MP, Mohammed Yonus Qanooni, says that if talks continue to be held as before, it will only give privileges to the anti-government armed groups. He also said that changing the geography of war in the country will not bring peace and stability.
"A peace that will destroy national unity and territorial integrity of Afghanistan is no peace. It is only a conspiracy and a disaster which will make Afghan people suffer," Mr Qanooni said.
"Only certain obvious circles will try to seek their interests in such conspiracies."
Meanwhile, the National Coalition of Afghanistan also warns that Afghan security forces will not be able to maintain security after 2014.
The National Coalition believes that Pakistan's spy agency, ISI, will openly interfere in Afghanistan's internal affairs after foreign troops pull out in 2014.
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Afghanistan to Face Major Financial Challenges Beyond 2014, Zakhilwal Says By Saleha Sadat Sunday, 05 February 2012
Afghanistan will face major financial challenges after 2014, the Afghan Minister of Finance said on Sunday while speaking before the Afghan House of Representatives.
Presenting next year's budget to the House of Representatives, Afghan Minister of Finance Hazrat Omer Zakhilwal said that as the Afghans are taking over responsibilities, it will cause a major challenge for Afghan government beyond 2014.
He emphasised that the Afghan government will not have enough financial resources to carry on without international support.
"With all these achievements, we will face some major challenges," Mr Zakhiwal said. "The transition process can give Afghans more responsibility but it will cause major financial challenges."
The total budget for next year is estimated Afs 224.5 billions.
The normal annual budget for Afghanistan will be Afs134.3 billion.
Nearly 77.3 billion Afs will be earned through Afghan government incomes and more than 56.9 billion Afs will be provided by international community.
The development budget of the country is estimated 9.2 billion Afs.
The total revenues from the national resources are estimated 87.9 billion Afs for the next solar year.
The total cut for the main budget will be 12.5 billion Afs, Mr Zakhilwal added.
Lack of professional personnel is another challenge cited by the finance ministry.
His comment comes as The US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta on Saturday urged the international community to help pay for strong Afghan security troops despite worldwide economic pressure.
US is spending around $12 billion a year to train the Afghan security troops, which is expected to rise to 352,000 men to take over security when Nato combat forces withdraw by the end of 2014.
The United States has predicted that the annual price tag of training and equipping Afghan security forces in coming years will be around $6 billion.
The US wants the international community to contribute $1 billion per year after 2014 in addition to the United States' assistance.
Meanwhile, the British Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has said that Nato ministers would consider two critical questions: "What should be the long term size of the Afghan security forces and how are we going to share the cost of supporting that between different members of the international community. Those are discussions we have started here and we will continue at Chicago."

A decade after going to war in Afghanistan, the wins are fading
Globe and Mail By Paul Koring Monday, Feb. 06, 2012
WASHINGTON - In war, the outcome matters.
Whether the 10 years of fighting and dying in Afghanistan was worth the Canadian blood spilled and bullion spent remains in doubt because Afghanistan’s future is so uncertain.
Yet now is a time for assessment, even if the moment is not being officially acknowledged: It was 10 years ago this week that Canadian troops landed in Kandahar, battle-ready and girded for combat, the first time since Korea the nation had sent ground troops to war.
When the final Canadian combat forces were pulled out last summer, it was the first time in the nation’s proud military history that Canada quit a fight before it was over. Canadians stopped fighting not because of victory or defeat but because of a political decision predicted on declining public approval.
But if the war wasn’t worth fighting any more, was it worth fighting at all?
Reports last week that the Taliban is poised – at least by its own assessment – to retake Afghanistan will feed the uncertainty over the military mission. That was followed by the stunning announcement by the Obama administration that the 100,000-plus troops will also end their combat role next year. This comes as the U.N. reported that more than 3,000 Afghan civilians were killed last year, the worst death toll of the decade.
Whether President Hamid Karzai’s corrupt regime survives or is soon swept away after Western troops pull-out may ultimately become the measure of the war’s success or failure.
Clearly, a decade of nation-building has failed to create a democratic, civil Afghanistan.
For Canada, judging whether the war was worth the costs is even harder. The Taliban regime, with its ruthless version of medieval Islam and repressive treatment of women, had been toppled before Canada’s first combat troops streamed into Kandahar a decade ago. And Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda cohort had already fled across the border. But Canada’s first – and perhaps finest – battles would pit a few hundred of the Princess Patricia’s 3rd Battalion against fierce and battle-hardened Afghan warriors in the high mountains surrounding the Shah-i-Kot Valley. The Canadians won, without losing a single soldier.
But winning battles in a war eventually deemed pointless is an empty victory, even if it demonstrates military prowess. Canada paid dearly for the Afghanistan mission. More than 150 soldiers were killed and 2,000 wounded, many of them disabled for life; at least $18-billion was spent, perhaps double that, if the costs of replacing a worn-out army and caring for the mentally and physically shattered and their families are counted.
So what was achieved?
By the crudest military metric – kill ratios – Canada’s soldiers proved tough, effective warriors. Well-informed, Canadian officers refer, quietly, to 100-to-one kill ratios, suggesting that far more than 10,000 Taliban fighters may have been killed by Canadians over more than five years of counter-insurgency operations in Kandahar. Retired Lieutenant-General Andrew Leslie toured with a powerful video of a Canadian attack on a Taliban compound; first an artillery barrage, then encirclement by armoured vehicles and finally a overwhelming assault by infantry. “I won’t show you the messy bits,” Gen. Leslie used to tell audiences. That sort of effective soldiering was repeated hundreds and hundreds of times, mostly hidden from and unknown to ordinary Canadians.
Yet no matter how combat-effective Canadian soldiers were, there were rarely more than 500 of them “outside the wire” in Kandahar, a wild and remote mix of desert, valleys the size of Nova Scotia with nearly 1-million people and a porous border.
After President Barack Obama ordered a surge in what he called the “right war,” the Pentagon poured more than 10 times that many U.S. troops into Kandahar, reinforcing then replacing the Canadian contingent. The sheer scale of the American effort – with inconclusive evidence that it has yet routed the Taliban – reinforces the notion that Canada’s contingent was always too small to wage an effective counter-insurgency campaign.
For most Canadians, Afghanistan was an almost entirely sanitized war. No battlefield pictures of war dead from either side, no images of the wounded, at least not until they were in rehab or chatting to politicians. Ottawa managed even to suppress pictures of a beaten detainee – even after an investigation concluded that he had been appropriately subdued after trying to escape.
Much of the difficulty in determining “success” in waging war against insurgents is the impossibility of counting “hearts and minds” won, at least in the short term.
No Canadian flags flew over captured town after battles won.
There will be no Afghan children putting candles on Canadian gravestones – as still happens every year in Holland three generations after liberation.
In terms of governance and development, the two areas alongside security that Ottawa set as the triad of Canadian policy, the results are mixed, at best. Kandahar political factions continue to wage a bloody fratricide, assassinations are frequent, including the mayor and Ahmed Wali Karzai, the president’s half brother. A still-lawless and corrupt power structure prevails.
On the home front, Canadian public support for the war declined steadily during the decade as the death toll mounted amid a persistent cloud of alleged detainee abuse – that Ottawa was forcing Canadian troops to turn captured Taliban over known torturers, a war crime. Ottawa vigorously fought the allegations, initially denying it knew that torture was rife in Afghan prisons. It belatedly started follow-up inspections but kept secret that it had halted transfers, at least twice, after discovering brutal ill-treatment persisted.

Readers Write: Keep criminals off streets; get US out of Afghanistan; let kids play
Letters to the Editor from the weekly print edition of February 6, 2012: One reader says reducing prison populations won't come from releasing criminals, but rehabilitating them and preventing crime. Others praise the recent cover story on the importance of free playtime for children. Another argues the US shouldn't stay in Afghanistan for access to resources or influence in the region.
Christian Science Monitor February 6, 2012
Keep criminals off the streets
I found a contradictory message in two pieces from the Jan. 16 issue. One of the stories promoted on the cover ("Progress Watch: Violent Crime") is titled "How serious crime fell in US." It credits part of the reduction to "increased incarceration, including longer sentences, that keeps more criminals off the streets."
In the same issue, however, Arjun Sethi's commentary piece "Four low-cost ways to reduce prison overcrowding" advocates sentence reduction for habitual offenders and urges limiting the use of pretrial detention.
RELATED: Four ways to relieve overcrowded prisons
I think I prefer keeping the criminals off the streets. Reductions in prison populations must be driven by education and opportunity (jobs). Once the crime is committed and the perpetrator is on that path, society has a responsibility to keep its citizens safe from those who choose to do it harm.
Larry Sims
Montrose, Colo. Child's play; Afghanistan
Regarding the Jan. 23 cover story "Time for play": I find it sad that the existence of schools where children play in kindergarten is not known or mentioned. They exist, and some of the best are the Waldorf schools [in some countries Rudolf Steiner schools]. To enter a Waldorf kindergarten is like entering a child's paradise. Kindergartens are considered the foundation and most important part of these schools.
The 19th-century German national poet Friedrich Schiller said: "Man is only truly man when he plays." Albert Einstein's take was that "imagination is more important than knowledge."
I would also like to comment on Alexander Benard's op-ed in the same issue, "Leave Afghanistan, forfeit a region." Mr. Benard blatantly admits that the goal of keeping a US military presence in that country would not be to bring freedom and democracy or even kick out the Taliban, but to have US presence and influence in a strategically important region.
RELATED: Afghanistan Field Guide: Don't wear sunglasses and eight other essential tips
Of course, those strategic interests sound more like greed for Afghanistan's natural resources – "oil and gas reserves ... lithium, copper, rare earth minerals, gold" that apparently can only be obtained by military might, not by trading and paying for it.
In German there is a saying that applies to this issue, too: "Wo Wissen endet, beginnt Gewalt." That is, "Where intelligence ends, violence begins."
Ingrid Tillman
Keaau, Hawaii
I am a newly retired school psychologist with three decades of experience working in public schools. The "Time for play" cover story is too good and the information contained is too important to limit its reach only to Monitor subscribers. It should be turned into a brochure and distributed to all public schools.
We need public schools to rethink their vision of what constitutes childhood success before it is too late.
Jane Everham, EdS

Winter at an Afghan Refugee Camp: ‘Is It Sugar From God?’
New York Times By ROD NORDLAND February 5, 2012
KABUL - Many readers responded to an article on Saturday about children in Kabul freezing to death by asking what they could do to help. It is not a simple issue, and the needs are great; there are a large number of camps, 46 in Kabul and others on the city’s outskirts with 35,000 residents. No one group is reaching all of those people: some provide medical aid, others food aid, others sanitation and water services.
At the foot of this follow-up article are some of the groups that have been active in the camps. The problem is not likely to go away with an increase in donations of fuel and food, though that may well save some lives.
Rahmatullah Rahmani remembered his first winter in Kabul. At first the kids thought sugar was falling from the sky because the snow was white and crystalline and melted on their tongues with a sweet taste unlike the often fetid camp water.
Mr. Rahmani and his family had fled the fighting in the Sangin district of Helmand Province and had come here to the Charahi Qambar camp in Kabul, one of 46 unofficial refugee camps in the capital.
“Our children were saying, ‘What is this? Is it sugar from God?’ They had never seen snow. Even I never saw snow in my whole life before I came here,” said Mr. Rahmani, who had been a farmer, “and I am 38.” He looks more like a man of 60.
He was among the “elders” of the camp who had invited a reporter to join them at the camp meeting place, a lean-to with open sides, bamboo mat flooring and a few rough cushions.
“At first they were happy and played in the snow, until they saw it was so cold and it was a dangerous sugar for them. A sugar from the sky, but it kills,” he said.
Before sitting down, the Afghan men took off their shoes, despite the cold and the snow; it kept the mud off the mats. Some of the men had no socks, or, at best, thin ragged ones, and they folded their feet under their robes.
This is one of the two camps in Kabul where The New York Times has found that a total of at least 22 children have died from the cold since Jan. 15 in the course of three unusually heavy snow storms and unseasonably cold weather, which is continuing.
Most of the refugees here are from Helmand Province, in southern Afghanistan, and many are from the Sangin district there, which was and still is one of the most violence-prone areas in Afghanistan. Some have been in the camp as long as seven years.
The men were not eager to talk about their children: the deaths were shameful, and could not be undone. “You only come to find out about the dead. What about those who are still alive and no one is doing anything?” asked Noor Mohammad, a camp representative whose 70-year-old aunt died on Thursday night, of exposure, he thinks. “No one cares about us.”
Despite the resentment at their situation, there was graciousness rather than hostility.
An upended crate was placed before their visitor, with a rusted brazier on top of it. From one of the mud huts or tents, someone fetched small chunks of firewood, burned down to glowing coals, and plunked them on the brazier.
The elders included several camp representatives — there are 12 here — the fathers of children who had died and the camp mullah, Mualavi Musafer, also a refugee from Helmand.
This is an urban place, like most of the other Kabul camps, which are collections of mud huts with canvas or plastic roofs, or, in some places, just tents. In most directions, apartment blocks, factories and monuments can be seen, making the squalor all the more incongruous. Kabul has plenty of slums; few are as bad as these camps, thrown up on wasteland.
The refugees’ biggest concerns are lack of food and firewood. Everything else is secondary. Few of the children have coats or warm clothes of any kind, other than the occasional ragged sweater. Most do not have socks, and shoes are often little more than plastic sandals.
In some of the houses there are just a few blankets, and it is not uncommon for four people to share one. Nearly everyone seems to be sick, and medical care is spotty — and often unaffordable. “It has been months since we have tasted sugar,” Mr. Mohammad said.
Surely they have received more aid than this in all the years the camp has been here?
There was fuel, but they burned it. There was food, but they ate it. They said blankets had been handed out, but they sold them in warmer times to buy food. They had sold warmer clothing, too.
“It’s not that we don’t care about our children,” said Juma Gul, 42, whose month-old son, Ismail, died last month. He has eight other children; the eldest is 15 and the youngest a little over a year old, and also ill. “Even if a chick dies, the hen grieves.”
The men brought tea and served it — there was not enough for everyone, so guests were urged to drink first. One man shared the pictures on his cellphone of his sister and mother’s corpses. They were killed by what he said was a Taliban-provoked NATO bombing in Helmand.
A relative handful of aid agencies have provided some services in these camps — hot lunches for schoolchildren through Aschiana, for instance, or United Nations support for families who had returned from refugee camps abroad, or latrine-digging projects, or bladders of water from Unicef.
From time to time, big-hearted local businessmen come by and drop off fuel or food, as Nader Nafey did at the Charahi Qambar camp on Friday during a fresh snowstorm — though he had only enough for 200 of the 900 families there. “All I know,” he said, “is that nobody dies of eating.”
Yet at the end of a decade of initiatives, the refugees have more children to feed and an ever harsher struggle to survive (birth control has rarely been on any Afghan agenda).
Agencies worry that giving out too much aid will create dependency and attract more people to the camp. Other Afghans have greater needs. The men in the camps can work when the weather is good enough and there are jobs, although that is not the case now.
So what is the solution? The elders would like to see more food and fuel deliveries, but they recognize that is a short-term answer. “What we need is shelter,” said Mr. Mohammad, the camp representative. “If we had houses, we could survive.”
Another man was skeptical: “Houses are for rich people, not for us.”
A tray came out with a sort of dessert course, a few little wrapped candies on it, and tiny packets of artificial creamer. None of the men would touch them until a guest did.
Mullah Musafer — wearing a ragged black turban, his hands buried in his robes — took the long view. “When you write your article, tell them that when Judgment Day comes, we will all be tugging at their sleeves and asking them, ‘Why didn’t you help us? Why was there no shelter for us?’ ”
On Friday, a two-day snowstorm was blowing in full force at the Charahi Qambar camp. The snow piled up thickly, a near white-out. It was sometimes hard to see where the twisted paths of the camp ended and the roads of the neighboring community began, but for one telltale: No camp children were playing in the snow, but those outside of it built snowmen and threw snowballs and slid down hills on scraps of cardboard and had no idea about sugar from the sky.
The German aid group Welthungerhilfe, known in English as German Agro Action, has a major presence in Afghanistan and runs a variety of programs; in the camps, it has distributed firewood this winter but has not had enough money to do it a second time. It also runs mobile clinics in the camps.
The French aid group Solidarités International also has a major program in Afghanistan and has been active in the camps for years, running sanitation and emergency feeding programs.
Aschiana is a well-established Afghan aid organization that focuses on helping children. It is active in 13 of the camps around Kabul, providing hot lunches for children and sponsoring activities. Their United States fund-raising branch can be reached through ( and their Afghan office is at ( (