Headline Jan 23, 2015/ ''' AFGHANISTAN ''' : '' THE GREAT KNOWN-UNKNOWN ''

''' AFGHANISTAN ''' : 


DE NAW is just about 30 km from Kabul.

On some days, beautiful little girls in frilly dresses and glitter eye shadow hang around the village's main drag, while their parents eat in separate rooms at a wedding feast.

Before long, figs and cherries will be falling off the trees, but those aren't enough to feed hundreds of families who live there.

For years, men have been leaving their homes and crossing illegally into Iran to find work. ''A lot of our friends and family have already left, come back and then gone back again,'' says Aslam, who was 15 when he first went to Iran.

As combat troops leave in an orderly manner, life in De Naw will go on as it has been for years. The same will be true in many other parts of the country   -because:

The economic impact that  Tens of billions of aid and military dollars have had in Afghanistan is depressingly small.

More than a third of the country still lives beneath the poverty line. Life expectancy    -50 years in 2013-  has improved only marginally in the past decade.  

**About three quarters of the population can't read or write**

A 2009 study conducted by the nonprofit foundation Peace Dividend Trust (since renamed Building Markets)  concluded -

That excluding security and military spending, less than  40%  of every development and dollar spent in Afghanistan reached the local economy through, for instance salaries.
But the loss of even that contribution will be sorely felt in Kabul and more so in violence prone areas that have had a large military presence and thus been the recipients of more resources.

The challenge for the Afghan government will be to figure out how to make enough money  -and distribute it transparently   -so that villages like De Naw do not get left behind and descend into violence.  
EVERYONE KNEW  -it wouldn't last forever.

But as foreigners and dollars have begun to make exit ahead of the withdrawal of international troops, a palpable sense of unease has settled over the low-slung Afghan capital.

Lucrative contracts that fuelled war dependent businesses like logistics firms and private security outfits are drying up.

As international aid shrinks, thousands of Afghans face losing their jobs   -in a country that already has nearly 50% unemployment rate.

The Afghan government recently estimated it would need half a million new jobs to fill the growing gap, but more and more Afghans don't believe these jobs will come in time for them and their families.

Many of those who can afford it are packing it and leaving.

''One thing everyone is certain about that there is a massive economic collapse about to happen,'' says Heather Barr, a researcher for Human Rights Watch in Afghanistan. 

''Everybody is working on their exit strategies.''

Not everyone subscribes to that doomsday scenario. Afghanistan's economy has been on an upward trajectory: real gross domestic product has grown on an average of about 10% over the past decade, according to the World Bank

And though billions of aid and military dollars that have been pumped into the country since the  U.S, lead coalition forces invaded it in 2001 are beginning to taper off, the cash flow won't dry up overnight.

International donors have pledged to give Afghanistan  $16 billion through 2016 that will help the government transition to a peacetime economy, a process that Kabul estimates will take about  10 years.

There are plenty of people who think that process is less a looming crisis than a return to normality in Afghanistan, they say, has never been a rich country, and the tens of billions of dollars in development aid and military money-

That has flowed in over the past decade simply created unrealistic expectations.

''We should have never expected that the aid would continue.'' Afghanistan Minister of Finance, at the time, said. 

''But the way it was delivered,.......created a sense of dependency in the government and among people. We must break that sense of dependency. And the way to do it is to start to live within our means.''

***Nobody really knows what that means, exactly***.

Less than 20% of the government's total public spending comes from  domestic revenue, according to recent World Bank report.

Afghanistan needs to attract more investment to create the jobs that will help keep frustrated young men from joining up with the Taliban and other militant groups. But it can't get investors to stay as violence worsens.

''You want to establish a sense of personal and economic security so you don't have an instantaneous brain drain, a dramatic loss of middle managers and hence a repeat of what happened under the Taliban,'' says Ken Yamashita, the mission director for U.S. aid in Afghanistan.

'''It's one of the things that keeps a lot of us up at nights.''

In the end, it is the  Afghans  who remain,   -more than the politicians, or the soldiers,  -or the international donors  -who will define what lies beyond tomorrow.

With respectful dedication to the Students, Professors and Teachers of Afghanistan. See Ya all on !WOW!  -the World Students Society Computers-Internet-Wireless:

''' The Long Game '''

'''Good Night and God Bless

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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