Friday, July 27, 2007

Making Progress In Afghanistan: The Story So Far

Excellent work by the Ruxted Group:

1. Millions of girls are back in school with 400,000 new female students starting school for the first time this year; 2. Over 100,000 women benefited from micro finance loans to set up their own business; 3. Over a quarter of parliamentarians are women; 4. Over 7 million girls and boys are in school or higher education; 5. 83% of the population now has access to medical facilities, compared to 9 percent in 2004; 6. 76% of children under the age of five have been immunized against childhood diseases; 7. More than 4000 medical facilities opened since 2004; 8. Over 600 midwives were trained and deployed in every province of Afghanistan; 9. GDP growth estimates of between12-14% for the current year; 10. Government revenues increased by around 25% from 2005/06 to 2006/07; 11. Income per capita of $355, compared to $180 three years ago; 12. Afghanistan is one of the fastest growing economies in South-East Asia; 13. Over 4000 km of roads have been completed; 14. Work has begun on 20,000 new homes for Afghans returning to Kabul; 15. Over 1 billion square metres (roughly 32 km X 32 km) of mine contaminated land cleared; 16. 10 universities are operating around the country, against one (barely functioning) under the Taliban; and 17. 17,000 communities benefited from development programmes such as wells, schools, hospitals and roads through the Government’s National Solidarity Program (NSP); 18. 10% of Afghans now own a mobile phone, compared to 2 lines per 1000 people in 2001; 19. 150 cities across Afghanistan now have access to mobile phone networks and internet provider services; and 20. 7 national TV stations (6 private); numerous radio networks, plus a diverse and increasingly robust and professional print media are up and running.

And that's just part of the story. Read it all.


Blogger Tim said...

Aren't you a little worried about the lack of attribution in the Ruxted post? To the extent there is any, it is from the leadership of the public-sector organizations conducting the campaign. I tend to support what it is we say we're trying to do in Afghanistan, but I tend to suspicion of public statements from protagonists. This may come as a shock, but history has many examples of campaigns that issued cheery number-packed good-newsy statements up to the day they collapsed.

I'd *like* to believe the Ruxted numbers.

4:26 PM  
Blogger Blazing Cat Fur said...

I came across them a while back, they are a little cryptic but the news is good.

5:16 PM  
Blogger Transmontanus said...

Hi Tim: Not worried by the lack of attribution except to the extent the facts might be disbelieved in the absence of footnotes and sources - they do run counter to the commonly held impression, true enough. The asserted facts are nonetheless of a kind that's easily verifiable. Much of what the report contains isn't news to me; but it was heartening to see the data set out in a single, simple report.

8:59 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

Well, I suggest that you should be worried. Those web sites that Ruxted is pointing to are PR operations, and to rely on them is to exhibit a touching level of wide-eyed trust. It's reasonable to be dubious about media reporting, but anyone who's spent time in business or government knows that an even higher level of skepticism is required when you're reading what PR people write or edit.

When I ran across this post I thought "Oh, gosh, that's reassuring", but when I actually followed up on the data, I realized that there's actually no new information here.

8:37 AM  
Blogger Transmontanus said...

Tim: CIDA and NATO are not "PR operations." They're the primary sources for Ruxted's data.

Either the data is accurate or it isn't. I don't think it requires "wide-eyed trust" to accept raw data from CIDA and NATO as being basically accurate.

You say you followed Ruxted's links; you don't report any inaccuracies. Now you suggest that there's nothing reassuring about the data because it's not "new".


9:12 AM  
Blogger Mark, Ottawa said...

Who they are: A Public Announcement re: The Ruxted Group


3:10 PM  
Blogger Transmontanus said...

They certainly look like perfectly reputable people to me.

4:52 PM  
Blogger Mark, Ottawa said...


"I left the brightest development for last, but Kandahar City is on an economic roll, booming in population and bursting with building activity.

The lineup of truck traffic outside the city's customs terminal is a sight vaguely reminiscent of a Windsor border crossing, albeit with colourful jingle trucks in lieu of 18-wheelers. There are billboards extolling the virtues of a university education over becoming a suicide bomber.

It is, veteran observers say, an echo of what happened in Kabul several years ago when the capital prospered and security concerns abated. If the south's largest city can thrive in spite of chronic security problems, hope springs anew the entire region will stabilize and revitalize.

But know this for sure: If Canada pulls out in early 2009 as expected, hope for Kandahar will fade..."


"Sometimes, however, the math is meaningful, because there are other important developments in Kandahar. The Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team (KPRT) working with the Afghan government and aid agencies is the "build" part of the equation. Lt.-Col. Bob Chamberlain is the commander of the KPRT; he and his staff offered up some startling statistics. First, a polio vaccination program has nearly eradicated the disease in Kandahar province and throughout southern Afghanistan. Second, infant mortality in the region has taken a dramatic downturn. In my travels, I also noticed more and more children in evidence, many around the ages of 4 to 6, possibly the results of a post-Taliban baby boom. In other words, the next generation has a higher assured survival rate than the previous one, which was severely depleted due the effects of nearly 30 years of war. Even an Afghan friend of mine who lost both legs last year in an ambush is the proud father of a baby girl..."


"But while Canada struggles to wipe out the Taliban, it appears to be having greater success eliminating polio, with a $5-million Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) contribution to a program run by UNICEF and Rotary International. Modest as that sounds (the funds wouldn't be enough to buy two Light Armoured Vehicles), it makes Canada by far the most generous of the international security force countries here.

The border program swung into action last year when Afghanistan recorded a sudden spike of 29 polio cases after seeing only a single-digit count the year before. So far, 2007 has seen only two cases, both in this area..."


12:48 PM  
Blogger dirk buchholz said...

Talk about wide eyed optimism,Terry check out a few other of the groups working in Afghan the picture is quit different.
NATO and CIDA have no conflict of interests,on no of course not.They are just giving us the "fact" .
But then don't take my word for it,googling is quit easy.But start with

Thats just one,but then your a journalist and should be interested in seeing all the info before you make up your mind,so a bit of research on your part would be in order

4:32 PM  
Blogger Mark, Ottawa said...

dirk buchholz: Let polio rule.


5:05 PM  
Blogger Transmontanus said...

Mark: Nothing like a little good news from the front to upset certain people, so here's some more:

"Substantial Improvements Achieved in Afghanistan’s Health Sector"


5:33 PM  
Blogger dirk buchholz said...

Okay Terry you are just being stupid.
I have no problem with good news,my problem is with those that use rather meaningless statistics as some how prove,that the western military intervention is actually making much of a difference.
I notice you forget or overlook all those other stories like more innocent people have been killed by the "liberators",indeed any story that points the other way.

As for statistics in general you know as well as I,that they can be read in any number of ways,and many people do read them to back up their pet views,what ever they may be.
But I promise when the west pulls out of Afghanistan,after nothing of real worth was accomplished I won't say I told you so.
Perhaps I will be wrong,but....
But I am sure you won't be writing about that when the day comes.
One just needs to read a bit of history in regards to western interventions.To know that there is nothing particularly different about this latest intervention,that would gives one any reason to hope it will suceed.
With Bush and the Harper types involved success is even less likely,the kiss of death if there ever was a kiss of good.
But then when operation save the Afghans from themselves does fail you can still use the tired old "logic" that the left caused the mission to fail,or must have somehow been involved.

Did you notice UN troops are being deployed into Darfur,.And it did not take an invasion of the west.
So I guess the suffering will be over,now that the "democratic freedom loving selfless west" is more involved.
But you will correct that misconception if it does not pan out,at least I hope you will,because one thing I know for sure if it does not pan out most of the msm won't be connecting the dots

As for Marks little juvenile comment about polio.let him just know my grandfather had polio I am disabled myself Muscular Dystrophy.
I don't take light the suffering of others.
Indeed all the needless suffering in the world gets my blood a boiling

4:28 PM  
Blogger kurt said...

Well, Dirk, it took almost 40 years and many senselessly lost lives but a "western intervention" in Northern Ireland did result in a peace accord and power sharing agreement, along with prosperity for all concerned, between two seemingly intractable factions, the Orange and the Green. I just about fell over when I saw the photo of Gerry Adams and Rev Paisley sitting together and smiling. I think the Afghans are also capable of this seachange in regional politics.

7:48 PM  
Blogger Mark, Ottawa said...

As for Darfur:

Darfur: I sure hope I was wrong


2:12 PM  
Blogger Guy said...


You certainly focus on the positive points of our Afghani occupation, and there is no doubt that there are positive aspects - we are, after all, Canadians, not Nazis.

My concerns are with our motivations for being there. "Nation building" seems to be one of those wonderful side effects that result after the fact - not the primary motivator behind military action. We could send troops to any number of countries around the world and "help them" build a political/economic system which mirrors our Canadian democratic values; so why haven't we? Ask yourself - why have we not conducted ourselves in a similar fashion towards a dozen or more African nations who need our help just as badly, and who treat women just as badly as the Taliban have?

Terrorists have been known to frequent Sudan also. A Muslim nation steeped in civil war for decades, its civil war spilled over into war with Chad. The Sudanese government, as well as rebel forces, is openly guilty of genocide. In all that time, the African Union and UN peacekeeping forces have made only inconsequential gestures towards a meaningful intervention.

Why have we become obsessed and committed to helping the people of Afghanistan these past two years, when we could have been helping the people of Sudan for the past twenty? Why are we not intervening in this African country as forcefully as we have in Afghanistan to help them build a democracy based on our Canadian values?

“August 14, 2006, the Executive Director of Human Rights Watch found that the Sudanese government is both incapable and unwilling to protect its own citizens in Darfur and that its militias are guilty of crimes against humanity.” These human rights abuses have existed since at least 2004. The US State Department's human rights report issued in March 2007 claims that "All parties to the conflagration committed serious abuses, including widespread killing of civilians, rape as a tool of war, systematic torture, robbery and recruitment of child soldiers. Both government forces and militias allied with the government are known not only to attack civilians in Darfur, but also humanitarian workers. Sympathizers of rebel groups are arbitrarily detained, as are foreign journalists, human rights defenders, student activists, and displaced people in and around Khartoum, some of whom face torture. The rebel groups have also been accused in a report issued by the American government of attacking humanitarian workers and of killing innocent civilians.”

Are the events in Sudan any less worthy of our Canadian altruism?

We were aware of these atrocities long before the attacks of September 11/01 took place; we were aware of the Taliban’s reprehensible conduct long before 9/11 – why didn’t we act? What was/is our motivation? Certainly not the welfare of the women in Afghanistan, otherwise we would have acted sooner. If restoring or granting human rights was/is our motivation, we would have taken action elsewhere, wouldn’t we?

How is it that we’ve decided to play God in Afghanistan, but not Sudan or North Korea - or China, where millions of children are slave laborers? Tens of thousands of female children are murdered at birth? Why do we continue to conduct business with China? Why has the western world not invaded North Korea if we care so much about the human rights of innocents overseas?

A “viable alternative” at this point may be avoiding the accidental murders of innocent Afghanis to save other innocent Afghanis from human rights abuses.

As Canadians, we now have innocent blood on our hands just a red as the blood on the hands of the Taliban. Do you think that those Taliban fighters are any less sincere in their beliefs of what is morally right and wrong in their world? Is their courage to die for what they believe in any less than a Canadian’s? Do you think them to be evil people? Is brute force the only alternative available to our civilization in our efforts to make others see the world our way?

I cannot claim to possess the wisdom of King Solomon, therefore I don’t have all of the answers for the woes of the world. I do know, however, that two wrongs don’t make a right and if we as a country are going to use force of arms against other people around the world, we should have a legitimate reason for doing so. In Afghanistan, I don’t think we do.

Someday, we must leave Afghanistan. What then?

Things are only going to get worse throughout the Middle East and our efforts will have been for naught. No, worse than that: we will have killed many innocent human beings while sacrificing many innocent Canadians, all for nothing.

5:54 AM  
Blogger Transmontanus said...


You raise several perfectly sensible and important questions - until the "blood on our hands" paragraph, where you make the mistake of equating our responsibilities to the Afghan people with the "sincerity" of the Taliban. I don't care how sincere they are. They take up the sword against the Afghan people or the Afghan government, they deserve to die by the sword.

I'll leave aside your questions about why we're not doing certain things we might do (i.e. China, North Korea), and just say I tend to share your sentiments.

I'll refrain from any rhetorical or polemical answers to the question "Why are we in Afghanistan?" - and stick to the objective and historical reason. It's essentially four-fold: 1. The Taliban-sheltered Al Qaida attacked a NATO ally on September 11, 2001, and for good or ill, all NATO countries responded by consensus in invoking Article 4, which stipulates an attack on one NATO country is an attack on all NATO countries. 2. The 2005 Bonn agreement commits us to a major reconstruction effort in Afghanistan. 3. The 2006 Afghanistan compact, signed in London does the same (the nations that signed the Bonn and London pacts number about 90, including most of the world's Muslim countries, by the way) 4. Afghanistan is a member in good standing of the UN, and the democratically-elected government of Afghanistan wants us there.

Everything else, sensible or silly - whether we like the Afghan government, whether our military mission there is a transgression of Canada's genetic predisposition to "peacekeeping", whether it's all aout oil, whether we're just trying to please George Bush, whether 9-11 was an "inside job" - is irrelevant and superfluous to the historical and objective reasons why we're there.

I think you're being just a tiny bit hard on Canada viz. Darfur, though. In aid to the people of Darfur, Canada is in the top four countries of the world. Why those of us on the left in Canada have not made more of an effort to force our government and the UN to do more in Darfur is a good question, and a subject I wrote about here:

3:24 PM  
Blogger Transmontanus said...


More "meaningless statistics":

3:33 PM  

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