By Navy Lt. Neil Myers
Special to American Forces Press Service
Aug. 22, 2008 - Recent fighting between the Taliban and Pakistani forces in Pakistan's Bajwar Agency has forced thousands of families – many of whom fled to Pakistan after the 1979 Soviet invasion – to cross the border into Afghanistan. Many arrived in Konar province seeking assistance from the local government. In response to the influx, Konar Gov. Sayed Wahidi has assigned a special committee to increase emergency assistance available to refugees, many of whom are settled temporarily in the province's Shigal, Dangam and Marawara districts.
On Aug. 16, Wahidi conducted an operation to deliver hundreds of Konar Provincial Reconstruction Team and Red Crescent-donated blankets, food rations and clothes for the refugees. Wahidi pledged that more assistance is forthcoming from his administration.
According to United Nations statistics, the number of Afghan refugees who crossed the border into Pakistan surpassed 3 million at its highest point after the Soviet invasion.
The 1.2 million displaced Afghans now living in Pakistan make up the largest refugee group in the world today, the U.N. report stated. More than 240,000 Afghans settled in refugee camps in Bajawar Agency, Pakistan, 50 miles from Konar province.
(Navy Lt. Neil Myers serves with the Kunar Provincial Reconstruction Team.)