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Report: Afghan Conflict Driven by Poverty


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A Britain-based charity has found a majority of Afghans see poverty and unemployment as the major cause of conflict in their country. According to the report, interference by neighboring countries was fourth in the tally of factors.

Oxfam and a group of Afghan organizations interviewed more than 700 Afghans.

After poverty, the Afghans blamed government weakness and corruption as the second most important factor behind fighting. The Taliban came third, followed by interference by neighboring countries.

Oxfam representative Michael Bailey says what came across during the interviews was a traumatized people.

"That analysis by Afghans themselves, what they are saying essentially is that their daily lives have to improve if we want to see peace and stability," he said.

He says the Afghan government has a major responsibility to improve the lives of its citizens and end corruption. And he said the international community also has a role to play.

"At the same time, the international community and the major donors - particularly the United States actually, being by far the largest donor - have got a responsibility, I think, to use aid resources much more effectively," he said. "You can see that over the years there has not been a good policy of building up the Afghan institutions capacity to deliver basic services to people."

Asked about their lives during the course of the past 30 years, one in 10 people said they had been imprisoned at least once. One in five said they had been tortured; many of those were women.

Professor Malcolm Chalmers, an analyst at The Royal United Services Institute, a London-based think tank, says Oxfam's findings are not surprising. His own research has shown that poverty and conflict frequently go hand in hand. But he says it is the wide gap in incomes that makes the situation particularly bad and makes people mobilize in protest.

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"There are some people, including ministers in the government in Afghanistan, who are doing very well economically out of this conflict and out of international aid and out of the narcotics trade. But there are others - the majority of the Afghan population - who are not seeing very many benefits," said Chalmers.

He adds the Taliban, which came third on the list, is only one of many players impacting the lives of Afghanistan's people.

"They have been subject to conflict for 30 years, which has taken different forms and often those doing the most damage to them as individuals have not been the Taliban," he said. "They have been other warlords or indeed those serving as the government in Kabul at any particular time so it is not surprising they see a range of different actors as being responsible for their problems."

During interviews, one in six Afghans said they are considering leaving their country. Three-quarters said at some point in the past 30 years they have been forced to flee their home.

Oxfam says those interviewed felt that both sides of the conflict should do more to prioritize the safety of Afghan civilians.

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