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Joblessness driving Afghan youth to extremism

Mar 11, 2010

Authorities have voiced concern about the increasing number of Afghan youth joining Taliban driven by unemployment and poverty. While ideological motivation is one of the reasons, it has become necessary for the government to reduce corruption and create job opportunities for long term growth and social cohesion.

Qala-e-Naw, Afghanistan: A year after his expulsion from Iran for not having a work permit, Abdul Majid, 26, has found paid employment in Muqor District, Badghis Province, northwestern Afghanistan.

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But it is not a normal job: “My son has joined the Taliban,” Majid’s father, Bismillah, told IRIN, adding that he had no contact with his son for over three months.

He said that in Muqor and other districts in Badghis Province some young men, like his son, were joining the insurgents-mainly for economic reasons. “He joined the Taliban out of desperation because he looked for a job for several months but got nowhere.”

“They attack aid convoys, kidnap people and do all other kinds of extortions,” said Sayed Ahmad Sameh, the provincial police chief.

The insurgents are believed to be making hefty profits from the narcotics economy, which the UN Office for Drug and Crimes (UNODC) has estimated at over US$3 billion a year. Ransom payments and “taxes” also pours money into the insurgents’ pockets, according to experts and government officials.

“In places, they control roads, collect revenues and mete out swift justice. They co-opt disenfranchised groups and pay young men to fight,” said General Stanley McChrystal, the commander of all foreign forces in Afghanistan, in his counter-insurgency doctrine in 2009.

Sections of the international media allege that Taliban leaders pay their soldiers more than the government pays members of the police and army.

However, money may not be the only or even the main motivation for many Taliban recruits: “We do not fight to get rich but to satisfy almighty Allah,” Qari Yusuf Ahmadi, a purported Taliban spokesman, told IRIN on the phone from an undisclosed location.

“The Taliban do not have dollars, and those that want to get rich work for the government,” he said.

Creating jobs for young people is a key plank in US strategy: “Job creation is critical to undermine extremists appeal in the short-term and for sustainable economic growth in the long-term,” according to the US government.

Noor-ul-Haq Ulomi, a member of parliament, questions that analysis. “If youths are joining the Taliban out of joblessness it proves the government’s failure in creating legitimate job opportunities. Why are people not joining the army and police instead of the Taliban?”

Warning

The former special representative of the UN Secretary-General, Kai Eide, in his last policy paper warned of the dangers of exaggerating the number of the insurgents who are joining the Taliban for purely economic reasons.

“We should not underestimate the number of those who fight for reasons of ideology, resentment and a sense of humiliation-in addition to criminal elements,” he said in the paper entitled A Strategy for Transition to Afghan Leadership.

“It may not be difficult to buy a young man out of unemployment, but it is difficult to buy him out of his convictions,” he said.

Meanwhile, President Karzai has vowed to tackle corruption in his government. Afghanistan is ranked only second to Somalia in Transparency International’s 2009 Corruption Perceptions Index.

UNODC reported that Afghans paid US$2.5 billion (23% of gross domestic product) in bribes to government officials in 2009-something that is probably alienating many young Afghans.

Over half the population (estimated at 27-28 million) is under 18, and unemployment is believed to be running at over 40%. Afghanistan was ranked the second poorest in the world by the UN Development Programme in 2009.

Source : IRIN
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