Friday, February 29, 2008

Soldier of Fortune

So the wealthy privileged blue-blood Prince Harry eagerly sought adventure and excitement in the battlefields of Afghanistan to prove himself a real soldier , a true gentleman officer of the regiment , and has according to the press reports organised bombing attacks on the Taleban .

How gratifying it is that he is offered a choice and it is not out of economic necessity that he has to risk dying for a cause .

Abdul Malik, aged 17, joined Taliban insurgents in the south after two Taliban supporters gave him a mobile phone. A short while later his dead body was brought to his family. "In our district many young guys join Taliban ranks for pocket money, a mobile phone or other financial incentives," said Safiullah, a resident of Sangeen District in Helmand.

"The government of Afghanistan lacks the funds to provide for its citizens and is unable to create sustainable job opportunities for a large proportion of the population. Therefore, the south is a rapidly growing recruitment ground for the Taliban. Where the government is failing to provide basic services, often the Taliban are filling the gap with more radical alternatives. This means that sought-after trust from the Afghan people is going to the radical militants rather than the elected government," The Senlis Council, a London-based international policy think tank, said in a report in February 2008.

High levels of rural poverty or unemployment are probably helping to drive young people like Malik to join the Taliban. A report by Afghanistan's Independent Human Rights Commission on the social and economic rights of Afghans estimated that in some parts of the country the unemployment rate was as high as 60 percent.

A reason why there are so many rural poor is the fact that agriculture, which employs over 60 percent of the estimated 26.6 population, has received only US$300-400 million of the over US$15 billion of international development aid given to Afghanistan since 2002, Oxfam International reported in January.

Edward Girardet, a programme director for the Geneva-based Media21 Global Journalism Network, told IRIN that immediately after the demise of the Taliban regime Afghans had high expectations for a rapid rebuilding of their country and a positive change in their living conditions. However, six years on there is an enormous amount of frustration, "particularly among young Pashtuns who have returned from Pakistan only to find no jobs," he said.

According to Girardet, Oxfam and others, billions in aid to the war-torn country have been misused and/or mismanaged, and have produced only limited results. To defeat Taliban insurgents the US military spends $65,000 a minute in Afghanistan ($35 billion for 2007) .

Aid agencies and some experts doubt an increase in military spending will end the growing violence in Afghanistan: "There are no military solutions to Afghanistan..." Girardet said.

A resident of Kajaki District in Helmand Province put it simply "All we want is a job - to earn some money and support our families."

No-one questions Harry's personal courage or his bravery or his commitment to his chosen martial career , but for those Afghanis like young Abdul Malik , Prince Harry is representative of an economic system where power and wealth dominates and divides and continues to leave youths like Abdul powerless and in poverty .

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