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Portrait of Paktika Province

FORWARD OPERATING BASE SALERNO, Afghanistan – Early in the late Michael Bhatia’s December 2007 report on Paktika Province — which I referred to in “Through Afghan Eyes” — he gives an overview of what previous studies have found about conditions in the province.

It’s a stark picture of what it’s like to live in one of the provinces used as an infiltration route for insurgents from Pakistan, and where many locals feel abandoned by the Kabul-based government of Hamid Karzai:

  • Historically strong reliance on tribal structures
  • Traditions of local autonomy, tribal governance and inter-tribal dispute resolution
  • Predominately Pashtun composition, with a concentrated Tajik presence in Orgun District
  • Historical issues with food security — 96 percent of Paktika families took out a loan to buy food in 2005; 84 percent of Paktika residents had problems satisfying their food needs 3-6 times in 2004
  • Low literacy rate (only 2 percent, the second lowest in Afghanistan)
  • Low school enrollment rates and low female-to-male literacy ratios
  • Heavier reliance on mullahs and other community leaders for information flow compared to other areas (71 percent for Paktika compared to a national average of only 39 percent)
  • Heavy deforestation and water insecurity
  • Rural composition and reliance on subsistence agriculture, subsistence animal husbandry and labor migration out of the province and out of the country
  • Reliance on wood, brush and manure for household cooking and warmth; and lamp oil for lighting
  • Lack of electricity (only 1 percent have access to public electricity; only 6 percent access to any electricity at some point in the year)

The portrait of a region ripe for unrest.

A description of a region ripe for unrest.

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