Afghanistan Analysts Network – English

War and Peace

Surveyed: The Cost of War

Thomas Ruttig 3 min

The war-destroyed Dar-ul-Aman palace in the South of Kabul was the perfect venue for the presentation of the report ‘The Cost of War’ to the Afghan and international public. The palace, designed to house the first Afghan parliament established under King Amanullah (ruled 1919-29), never served its aim. Amanullah was toppled by a mulla-led and British financed tribal rebellion before it was finished. In the 1980s, the ruling Soviet-backed People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) made it the Defense Ministry and the civil war turned it into ruins. Also the timing was well chosen: one day before the swearing-in ceremony for President Hamed Karzai’s second term in office.

KABUL, 18 Nov 2009. The report jointly produced by Oxfam and seven Afghan civil society organizations aims adding the ‘voices of ordinary Afghans [that] are often absent from […] accounts’ on their country. Therefore, the research ‘focused on individual experiences of the past thirty years of conflict, perceptions of the current conflict and recommendations for alleviating the violence and addressing its root causes’ without trying to give the full picture.

The report covers 14 provinces, four in north, three in east, two in south, on in the west and four in central Afghanistan. 704 randomly selected people in an age from 12 to 87 years were questioned on the basis of structured interviews. Among them, 48 per cent were female and 52 per cent male. The major finding of the report is that 70 per cent of the respondents blame poverty and unemployment as the major causes of conflict in their country, rather than the Taleban (36%).

Interestingly enough, both the international forces and al-Qaida (18% each) score the same result as a destabilizing factor. Warlords (15%) and criminal gangs (14%) follow closely. On the other hand, lack of support by the international community is also quoted as a major factor by 17 per cent of the respondents.

48 percent pointed to corruption and ineffectiveness of the Afghan government, while 25% hold other countries responsible, including neighboring Pakistan and Iran. (Multiple answers were possible.)

Further it was found that one in five Afghans have been tortured since the wars began in 1979, either in jail or by the various armed groups. A third of those tortured were women. Just one per cent reported receiving any form of compensation or apology for the harm done to them. Two in five people had property destroyed, the majority of this damage was reported as occurring during the communist government period (42%), nearly half as much during the Taleban regime (27%) and the civil war periods (22%) but very little (2%) during the post-2001 conflict. Three quarters of Afghans have been forced to leave their homes and that one in six Afghans is currently considering leaving their country.

Azim Mohammad from Nangarhar, one of the Afghan respondents quoted in the report points to the terrible balance of these wars: ‘What do you think the effect that two million Afghans martyred, seventy per cent of Afghanistan destroyed and our economy eliminated has had on us? Half our people have been driven mad. A man who is thirty or forty years old looks like he is seventy. We always live in fear. We are not secure anywhere in Afghanistan.’

The need to establish rule of law at all levels, clean up corruption and end the culture of impunity figured high amongst the recommendations given by the respondents. Many thought foreign aid from government does not currently reach the people who need it most, and wanted to see this money improve health and education services and help create jobs. Both international forces and Taleban are requested to keep civilians out of the fighting. While there is a ‘clear preference expressed by individuals for the Taliban to abandon the use of violence, which was seen as neither legitimate nor necessary’ like suicide attacks, IEDs and techniques like sheltering amongst civilians, the respondents, at the same time, express their wish that the Taleban pursue their goals through political means or become part of the government.

The authors of the report draw the following conclusion: ‘Repairing this damage can’t be done overnight. It will take a long time for the economic, social and psychological scars to heal. The international community has to recognize this, and to understand that Afghanistan needs more than military solutions. It needs support for agricultural, better infrastructure and schools and health services must improve’ and its need to ‘provide more effective aid to help kick-start the Afghan economy’.

With letting Afghans speak for themselves, this group of organizations continues what the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) had started with its famous report ‘A Call for Justice’ in 2005 – although the AIHRC report’s breadth has not been reached. But the mosaic emerges piece by piece. This should be an incentive for other organizations to follow suit, possibly with targeted, more localized research.

with contributions by Farshid Hakimyar and Gran Hewad, AAN Kabul

The following Afghan organizations participated in this research:

Afghan Civil Society Forum (ASCF)
Afghan Peace and Democracy Act (APDA)
Association for Defense of Women’s Rights (ADWR)
Cooperation Center for Afghanistan (CCA)
Education Training Center for Poor Women and Girls of Afghanistan (ECW)
Organization for Human Welfare (OHW)
Sanayee Development Organization (SDO)
The Liaison Office (TLO).

The full report can be found here.


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