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Continued Fighting In Afghanistan Affects Delivery of Food Supplies - 2001-11-23

United Nations relief agencies said they are experiencing difficulties getting aid into Afghanistan. Aid agencies are preparing for the reconstruction of the country, although fighting continues in some areas.

The World Food Program (WFP) said it has begun its first so-called "air bridge," flying food from Tajikistan to Afghanistan to feed 250,000 people in the northeast of the country.

WFP spokeswoman Christiane Bertiaume said it is important to get in as much food as possible before roads from the airfields are completely blocked by snow.

She expressed concern, though, for Afghans caught around the southern Kandahar and northern Kunduz regions where fighting continues.

She said a lack of security around Kandahar has made it impossible to deliver food supplies to some 500,000 Afghans. Ms. Bertiaume said a WFP shipment of aid was last distributed there in September to sustain people until October. "Kandahar is most probably one of the most dangerous places right now in Afghanistan. And we have not been able to feed the people over there since September. We have started to do some distribution of food to people in camps near Spin Boldak, but that's been very difficult and there has been a lot of insecurity. It is the same thing in Kunduz where we cannot, we do not have access for the time being. The situation is too dangerous," she said.

Another relief agency, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), said it is able to distribute winter clothing, blankets and heating materials to Afghans in the northwest of the country, where Northern Alliance forces are in control.

IOM head Brunson McKinley said his agency and others are also preparing for Afghanistan's needs in the post-war period. He said the return of Afghans, especially those who are highly trained, is important to help rebuild the country. "We have initiated a program already, it's already started to find those trained, qualified Afghans who are willing to go back and make it possible for them to do so matching the talents that are outside with the needs that are inside. So that's one category of return and the other big category is what you might call the mass return, the millions who are in neighboring countries and who are, I think, in the large majority will want to go back when they can," he said.

Some experts said that the reconstruction of Afghanistan is expected to cost $8 to $10 billion. Mr. McKinley said Iran and Pakistan are expected to play key roles in helping rebuild Afghanistan by providing access routes for materials.