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    Migration

    Displacement from conflict doubles

    As national and international forces intensify their operations against insurgents, more and more Afghans are being driven from their homes.

    According to a report released today by Refugees International, an advocacy organization for refugees, the number of individuals displaced by conflict in Afghanistan has recently skyrocketed.

    In the first half of this year, 91,000 Afghans fled their homes, a more than twofold increase over the same period last year.  

    In the northern province of Faryab alone, operations targeting the Taliban conducted by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and Afghan Nation Security Forces (ANSF) during the months of January and May displaced more than 22,000 individuals.

    Refugees International says the newly formed Afghan Local Police are contributing to the problem. On a fact-finding mission this spring, the group collected numerous complaints about Afghan Local Police from individuals who had been displaced by the war. The allegations included murder, theft, bribery, and intimidation.

    The report released today by Refugees International is not the first to lambast the Afghan Local Police. The United Nations, Oxfam International and a number of other non-governmental organizations have criticized the initiative for its lack of oversight and inadequate training. And The New York Times recently reported that some Afghan Local Police commanders are imposing an extra-governmental “Islamic tax” on their jurisdictions.

    General David H. Petraeus, commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, is a strong advocate of the Afghan Local Police. Introduced last year as an essential step toward transferring security to Afghan forces, the initiative has received at least $35 million in funding from the US Department of Defense. But critics contend that the programme has done little more than empower local militias to terrorize the population.

    "It is clear that the expansion of the Afghan Local Police and its poorly-trained and unsupervised units is actually a major threat to Afghan civilians,” said Lynn Yoshikawa, Refugees International’s lead advocate on Afghanistan. “The U.S. Congress must put the brakes on this programme and ensure that no U.S. funds are used to train or equip those suspected of committing human rights abuses."