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Once a symbol of US strength, the Afghan region is now having a hard time

At the end of the war, the residents of Marji are increasingly in desperate need of any help, a frustration that escalated into anger that the international community appears to have abandoned them.


December 18, 2021

MARJA, Afghanistan – Haji Rosie Khan stood at the gates of the bullet-riddled building that housed government offices in the Marjah area, looking through a slotted steel door into the grounds. The Taliban guards stared back. They were not what he was looking for.

Mr. Khan made his way to the Marjah district center in Helmand province from his village a few miles outside the city on his motorcycle, kicking up powdery dust as he rode long-damaged dirt roads. He was looking for a figure who has been even more elusive since the Taliban took power in August: a humanitarian worker.

“We have nothing to eat,” he said in an interview last month.

Marjah was once the site of one of the biggest battles in two decades of war, part of a US counter-insurgency campaign to weaken the Taliban and create a local government. But today, the grid-like stretch of mud-walled villages and canals looks the same as it did at the start of the 2001 invasion: rugged roads, understaffed and damaged schools and clinics, and dried crops crippled by one of the worst droughts. in decades.

As Afghanistan plunges deeper into a humanitarian crisis, the people of Marjah are still suffering the effects of the war. With an economic collapse and spoiled crops, in a place where most people barely live below the poverty line, many are only now realizing how dependent they were on foreign aid, on their 20-year lifeline that was cut off almost overnight. They are increasingly in desperate need of help, a frustration that has turned into anger that the international community seems to have abandoned them.

The residents of Marjah also come to an agreement with the new Taliban government, which may have brought peace, but due to the depletion of cash and the suppression of foreign aid, they were unable to help in anything else.

“The government cannot help itself, and we cannot help ourselves,” Mr. Khan said as a small group of farmers gathered outside the district center to make similar complaints to local authorities.

This is a tragic but almost inevitable turnaround for an area in southern Afghanistan that has since become a symbol of the West’s multi-million dollar nation-building efforts that collapsed even before the Americans left the country entirely in August. Many in Marjah were happy to see the end of foreign occupation and the rise to power of the Taliban, because it brought stability to the region after years of fighting that claimed countless civilian lives and caused widespread destruction.

Mr. Khan lived for nearly 30 years on the outskirts of Marjah, where he grew wheat, cotton and corn, until his harvest was hit by a drought last year. In the same year, his nephew was killed by a bomb on the side of the road.

The unrest this year has been exacerbated by the arrival of some 20 displaced families from central Afghanistan. They were hungry and homeless, he said, so he gave them some food to save before heading to the district center in hopes of finding someone else to help.

“We are so tired,” said Mr. Khan, his blue salwar kameez fluttering in the morning breeze.

In recent weeks, the United States and the European Union have pledged an additional $ 1.29 billion to Afghanistan. In late November, the World Bank’s board decided to free $ 280 million in frozen donor funding, but US sanctions against the Taliban continue to make it difficult for humanitarian organizations to reach the country.

In addition to sanctions, the Taliban government’s inability to provide for its people also stems from its inexperience in governance, as illustrated by a visit to the district office in Marjah.

Inside a squat government building that was repaired by the Americans a decade ago and nearly destroyed by fighting over the past decade, sat Mullah Abdul Salam Husaini, 37, governor of Marji County. The newly appointed local leader has spent most of the past 20 years – essentially his entire adult life – trying to assassinate US and NATO forces as a Taliban fighter.

He now finds himself running a district of about 80,000, mired in crisis with little funds, infrastructure, or public service experience to support his constituencies.

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People lined up at the gates of the complex with an endless stream of complaints and requests: something to do with the displaced refugees; build a new clinic; help farmers whose crops have been destroyed; find additional teachers for possibly the only remaining school in Marya.

“Whatever people ask, I’m asking that too, because we are not able to do it ourselves,” Mr. Hussaini said quietly, surrounded by the Taliban, who looked much more comfortable at the rifle than at the table. “We need help from foreigners because they have done it before, and we ask them to do it again.”

In the dimly lit office of the governor, on walls and window sills adorned with Kalashnikovs and other weapons seized from the previous government, sat a representative of a local aid group that had come to survey the area and its food needs for the World Food Program. The organization continues to distribute basic food products, but the growing demand far exceeds their supply.

For years, the rebel group has controlled areas of Afghanistan and fueled the shadow economy by stealing the previous government’s treasury filled with foreigners through taxes from everyone on its territory, including truck drivers and humanitarian workers. But such actions cannot make up for the loss of outside aid.

“The Taliban didn’t seem to realize how dependent the economy was on foreign support, from which they benefited like everyone else,” said Keith Clarke, co-director of Afghanistan’s analyst network. “Even in areas under Taliban control, they did not fund schools and clinics.”

Marjah, an area that has long depended on poppy cultivation for its illegal economy, which the Taliban also taxed, was built by the United States in the late 1950s and 1960s as an agricultural project that diverted water from the Helmand River in several separate networks.

In 2010, in the midst of President Barack Obama’s troop surge, thousands of Western and Afghan military personnel secured a network of canals and fields in a major military offensive, then pledged to provide roads, schools and a functioning local government. Considered the last Taliban stronghold in the center of Helmand, Marjah was a strategically important area in the eyes of military planners who decided that a victory there would be critical to Mr. Obama’s new counterinsurgency strategy.

At the Koru Chare bazaar, a cluster of low-standard shops with steel doors, the first American troops arrived in 2010. “They came at night,” recalled Abdul Kabir, a young shopkeeper who was 9 years old when he first. helicopters landed nearby.

As a boy, he watched the marines in desert brown uniforms walk by without saying anything.

But in November of this year, the only visible signs of American occupation were the Trump 2020 Keep America Great flag hanging from a vendor’s peanut stand and the Confederate battle flag hanging from a nearby barn. The paved road that crosses Marja from north to south is arguably the most visible piece of American infrastructure in the area, built as part of the more than $ 4 billion in stabilization funds the United States has poured into the country.

“It’s good that the fighting is over,” Kabir said, standing next to his currency exchange kiosk, where he focused on exchanging Afghani for Pakistani rupees. Few passed by. He lived in Marya his entire life, and this period followed the entire American occupation.

Mr. Kabir was one of several residents who praised the security situation but complained about the economic downturn. “There is no money, everything is expensive,” he added.

Due to changing border restrictions, higher import costs and a lack of cash, staple foods in the bazaar, such as vegetable oil, are three times more expensive than they once were.

For salespeople who have vivid memories of the fighting outside their homes, the bombings and gunfire that killed their friends, the economic crisis and the United States’ reluctance to recognize the Taliban seem like punishment against them, not the new government.

Ali Mohammed, 27, owner of a chicken kiosk at the bazaar’s main intersection, has borne the brunt of the war for years. He watched as his friend was shot by the Americans in a field just a few hundred yards from where he now sells his undernourished birds. For him, the situation in his country was just a new phase of the conflict.

“Foreigners say they are no longer here,” he said. “But they didn’t end the war against us.”

World Nation News Deskhttps://www.worldnationnews.com
World Nation News is a digital news portal website. Which provides important and latest breaking news updates to our audience in an effective and efficient ways, like world’s top stories, entertainment, sports, technology and much more news.
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