Monday, October 13, 2008

the squatters we create

alJazeera Magazine offers a moving portrait of the mess that is Afghanistan today. The nation's capital, reporter Anand Gopal asserts, has become one large shantytown:

Kabul itself lies in tatters. Roads have gone unpaved since 2001. Massive craters from decades of war blot the capital city. Poor Afghans live in crumbling warrens with no electricity and often without safe drinking water. Kabul, a city designed for about 800,000 people, now holds more than four million, mostly squeezed into informal settlements and squatters' shacks.

Washington spends about $100 million a day on this war -- close to $36 billion a year -- but only five cents of every dollar actually goes towards aid. From this paltry sum, the Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief found that "a staggering 40 percent has returned to donor countries in corporate profits and salaries."

Gopal concludes with a message that could apply to all squatter communities around the world: "This is a war to be won by constructing roads, creating jobs, cleaning up the government, and giving Afghans something they've had preciously little of in the last 30 years: hope."