Where will Afghanistan be one year from now? In the thousands of villages where CARE works, hope and fear are palpable. For the first time in decades, communities have something to lose. The people with whom we work are ready to rebuild their country. But they also fear that insecurity will once again rob them of this chance to put their lives and livelihoods back together.
In 2002, the central government was unable to deploy security forces in most of the country and the training of the national army fell critically behind, while international peacekeepers were restricted to Kabul. Regional commanders fought with each other in the West and North and committed human rights abuses against local populations. In Southern Afghanistan the trade in illicit drugs continued to grow, while in the East and Southern border areas, anti-government forces grew in strength and threatened both Afghanistan's leaders and international military forces. Numerous attacks against civilians and assistance workers took place throughout the country.
As this new year begins, as insecurity continues in Afghanistan, as neighboring powers seek to increase their influence over Afghan affairs, as the world's attention turns to Iraq, the communities where CARE works fear for the worst. CARE urges international policy makers to show the resolve necessary over the next year to address the security vacuum in Afghanistan. We recommend:
1. The international community should acknowledge that the security vacuum in Afghanistan will not resolve itself and requires urgent international attention.
2. International support for army and police training programs should be substantially increased so as to produce an adequate number of qualified graduates in a timely manner. Sufficient incentives should be put in place to integrate regional militias into a national security force, demobilizing those that are not integrated.
3. An international force, mandated to create a secure environment in which reconstruction can be accelerated and commerce re-established, should be put in place in key locations outside Kabul without further delay.
4. In the absence of an international peacekeeping force outside of Kabul, U.S.-led Coalition forces should focus their efforts on the maintenance of peace and the promotion of security throughout Afghanistan.
5. The Coalition should leave the coordination of reconstruction to the Afghan government, UN and other civilian aid agencies, and it should take all necessary steps to ensure that communities, policy makers and the general public do not confuse military- and civilian- implemented assistance.
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