Afghanistan: June 24, 2002


Some 800,000 Afghan refugees have returned to their home country since the spring, and they are presenting a serious problem. There are simply not enough aid workers to take care of so many people, and politics have more to do with aid distribution than need. One of the problems is that US, UN, and European units and agencies in Afghanistan are paying good money for drivers, guides, translators, and others who can be of help. This has created a problem in that doctors (most of them educated overseas and able to speak the languages of the foreign guests) are highly sought after for non-medical roles. In effect, the aid agencies are reducing rather than improving the standard of medical care in the country.--Stephen V Cole

The Special Forces are having a hard time dealing with an ancient Afghan tradition; convincing lies told at the expense of your enemies. Early on, the Special Forces learned that Afghans could be very sincere and convincing when providing misleading information on where Taliban or al Qaeda might be. Getting the Americans to bomb some tribal or personal enemy was seen as a splendid deception. You get the Americans to do your dirty work, perhaps avoiding the retaliation that comes from making the hit yourself. When confronted with evidence of this kind of lying, more lies are piled on while denying any culpability. The tribal culture of Afghanistan tends to make anyone not from the tribe fair game for any kind of deception or bad treatment. This is particularly the case with foreigners. Special Forces have spent months, and lots of money and effort, to build up personal relationships with tribal chiefs. But with over 50 tribes and hundreds of clans (and a few bad apples in each), it's still hard to avoid the skillful liars. 


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