Letter from Afghanistan

BMJ 2002; 324 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.324.7333.360 (Published 09 February 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;324:360
  1. Jennifer Leaning, professor of international health
  1. Harvard Medical School, Harvard School of Public Health, 651 Huntingdon Avenue, Boston, MA 02115, USA

    EDITOR—After 23 years of war and three years of drought Afghanistan has been driven into sweeping devastation and poverty. Having spent two weeks in Afghanistan on behalf of the US Physicians for Human Rights, as a member of a three person team, I can say that unless the international community moves rapidly to extend a security network outside Kabul and to mobilise funds for short term projects, the military and political investment in the coalition war will have been for naught.

    Curfews imposed since the time of the Russians close down the cities at 10 pm, but the United Nations keeps its staff in after nightfall, even in Kabul. At least Kabul can point to the international security force, albeit thinly deployed. Elsewhere, the only restraint is the presence of coalition forces at the airports or in temporary bivouacs, and these troops are poised to leave at any time.

    Mazaar-I-Sharif, the main city of the north, is divided into three distinct sections under the direction of three rival warlords. Virtually every male aged 14 to 60 in this city carries a Kalashnikov rifle. To venture out after nightfall …

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