Humanitarian Success Story in Afghanistan
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 18, 2002 At the same time U.S. and anti-Taliban forces were liberating Afghanistan, an unprecedented humanitarian operation was also under way.
The chief of U.S. Central Command, Army Gen. Tommy Franks, said Americans should be proud of that effort. Franks spoke Jan. 18 at a "cyber news conference" from Tampa, Fla. He said the humanitarian effort has saved thousands of lives and points to the fact that the operation against the Taliban and Al Qaeda has been successful.
He said 11,000 metric tons of food and medical supplies have moved into the country so far this month. This follows 116,000 metric tons delivered in December. He said officials are hoping to move in 45,000 tons by the end of January.
The supplies are moving into the country via all 11 major convoy routes. He also said nine airfields are open in Afghanistan to receive humanitarian supplies.
He said the United Nations' international humanitarian relief staff has moved back into the country. Nongovernmental relief agencies are also moving back in. More than 35,000 refugees have returned to their homes, but this still leaves millions of Afghans in refugee camps outside the country and internally displaced, he said.
Coalition members are also helping with the medical problems of the country. "One of our coalition partners, Jordan, has established a state-of-the-art hospital in Mazar-e Sharif with more than 20 surgeons and a full medical capability," Franks said. "They've treated more than 8,000 Afghans since Jan. 8." Russia has also established a hospital and Spain, South Korea are preparing to send more medical assets to the theater.
Franks said another hopeful sign is that schools are reopening. "In one case, 80 female staff have returned to Kabul University and 200 females registered for classes," he said. This development was "unthinkable" under the Taliban.
He said Afghanistan has one of the largest concentrations of land mines in the world. There are between 10 million and 11 million mines believed to be planted throughout the country. "As of today, some 4,400 United Nations Afghan deminers are operating in the country," he said.
He said the International Security Assistance Force, headed by the United Kingdom, is up and running in the Afghan capital. The force will ultimately have 2,500 to 5,000 soldiers depending on the needs of the interim government.