The deadly legacy of America’s invasion of Afghanistan is already being brought home in the grim photos of desperately starving people, especially children, which stream across TV.
To read the self-congratulatory American press, one would think the people of Afghanistan were all joyfully celebrating their liberation from the Taliban. Now it turns out they are not celebrating, but starving to death in the snow.
All the left-wing handwringing over the American bombing campaign blocking aid has turned out to be misplaced. The real problem is U.S. reluctance to put enough soldiers—ours or anyone’s other than the nearly lawless Northern Alliance—on the ground to maintain the peace.
UN and other relief agencies say they can’t function in nearly half the territory behind Northern Alliance lines because of marauding and highway robbery.
A spokesman for Oxfam in Islamabad today said the situation is roughly this: Food is reaching major cities, but isn’t getting out into the countryside, where 85 percent of the people live and where there is no security. As for the cities, the food that is getting through is not sufficient to feed city residents as well as the growing number of refugees who have fled rural regions for more urban areas. No aid of any kind is reaching Kandahar.
Which is not to say the continuing assaults by fighter planes are without harm. A current UN report says “aid workers in the east near Jalalabad were forced to leave their posts following intense U.S.-led bombing in the hunt for Osama bin Laden and his terrorist network.”
The more pressing difficulty, though, lies in protecting those who would make the food deliveries and hand out the aid. Relief agencies continue trying. “There is a small-scale distribution in Mazar-i-Sharif despite the insecurity there,” said Lindsey Davies, a spokeswoman for the World Food Program in Islamabad. The access point to 4 million people, “Mazar is an important logistical base for us. It is one access route into the north, but it is temporarily out of use.” The situation around Kunduz was, if anything, worse. “Kunduz is out of bounds to WFP,” Davies said.
“One of the problems experienced by WFP is the fact that truck drivers in the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta were reluctant to go into Kandahar for fear of being caught up in the U.S.-led operation,” she said. “We have also heard that food prices have increased in the market, which means that there will be fewer people with purchasing power.”
All this comes as President Bush prepares to ship some 10,000 relief packages funded by single-dollar donations from American kids, reports Salon.com. Designed for Afghan children, a quarter of whom die before the age of five, the packs include items like a fuzzy plastic ball, Starburst candy, raisins, and two suckers.