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Shared in accordance with the "fair dealing" provisions, Section 29, of the Copyright Act.

 

Rural areas receive no aid, expert says

Mike Blanchfield, Ottawa Citizen, Can West News Service, 24 Mar 07

Article link

 

Contrary to "rosy descriptions" given by Canada's government, virtually no reconstruction is taking place in rural southern Afghanistan because aid workers dare not confront a "traumatic" lack of safety, a leading U.S. academic said yesterday.

 

"There is reconstruction around the city, Kandahar City, and then in places like Panjwaii and Zahari District," Seth Jones, a political scientist with Washington-based Rand Corp., told a major symposium on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

 

"There is nothing, virtually nothing, that goes on anywhere else in the province. In other words, governance has not reached the rural areas of the south," he added. "The key point here is that basic government services have not reached most of the rural areas in Afghanistan."

 

Mr. Jones offered that assessment after spending two weeks in Kandahar in January, speaking to the military as well as aid officials from the government agencies of the U.S. and Canada, USAID and the Canadian International Development Agency.

 

He stayed at Kandahar Air Field, where Canada's 2,500 troops are based and he travelled the province on what was his 12th trip to Afghanistan to conduct research for an upcoming book.

 

After speaking with USAID and CIDA officials, he said he learned "the security concerns are so traumatic in these areas that they do not get deployed."

 

Mr. Jones was a featured speaker at a symposium yesterday sponsored by the Centre for Security and Defence Studies at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University in Ottawa.

 

He made it clear he was "deeply impressed" with the work of Canadian troops and said they are making development possible in areas under their control within Kandahar City and the Panjwaii and Zahari districts, where they have been particularly active -- but nowhere else is progress seen.

 

Mr. Jones' assessment appeared to contradict testimony Foreign Affairs Minister Peter Mac Kay gave to the Commons foreign affairs committee Tuesday.

 

"Thanks to the skills of professionalism and courage of our soldiers, the nascent peace stretching over the country has now been extended to large parts of Kandahar province," Mr. Mac Kay told the committee.

 

Mr. Mac Kay, who spent several days in Afghanistan in January, said he has seen "real progress" but he did not specify whether that was in Kandahar or in the capital of Kabul, further north.

 

"Canadian assistance is providing food, water, and basic necessities. It's also going to schools, villages and communities, to micro credit for individuals, especially women so that they can start small enterprises and businesses of their own. I've seen this progress myself ... on two trips that I made to Afghanistan, most recently in January," he said.

 

NDP MP Alexa Mc Donough, who recently made her first trip to Afghanistan with a parliamentary committee, told Mr. Jones after his presentation that his observations "more or less confirm what a lot of us have been desperately trying to get an answer to" from the government about the pace of reconstruction specifically in Kandahar province.


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