Afghanistan’s Internally Displaced Forced to Make Tough Choices

November 23, 2010 By Madeleine Pryor

One of the most important aspects of development in nation like Afghanistan is providing real opportunities for people to better provide for themselves and their families. An article in Sunday’s Washington Post brought that message home by telling the story of a man name Ahunzada.

Ahunzada is a 35-year-old mullah living in a refugee camp near Kabul with his family. He is from the southern province of Helmend, which is one of the most volatile regions in the country. Many people from Helmend have fled to refugee camps outside Kabul due to the increasingly destructive warfare in the region.

Access to employment and economic opportunity is tough for refugees like Ahunzada, which forces him to consider alternative ways of survival for his family. “I keep thinking I should go back to my village, either to cultivate opium or to stand alongside the Taliban. Then at least I will have money. I could send it to my wife and son,” he said. “I think about this every night.”

Many other Afghans explain their daily struggles living in refugee camps and the outcomes that are inevitably chosen for them. They believe that as long as the war violence accumulates, the possibility of returning home to a safe environment is distant. The number of internally displaced Afghanis increased from 235,000 in 2008 to 295,000 in January, 2010, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Ahunzada’s story is another example of why we must increase our investments in development through the International Affairs Budget in places like Afghanistan. When we help to provide opportunities for people like Ahunzada and his family, they do not have to resort to joining forces with those who wish to do our own nation harm. This is why the Smart Power tools of diplomacy and development are so important to our own national security. By stabilizing weak and failing states and improving our moral standing in the world, we can ensure our own national security.