Caught between the Taliban and coalition forces
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As civilians in Afghanistan pay a high price for the fighting between the Taliban and Western forces, FRANCE 24's reporters went to the southern provinces of the country to discover what their living conditions are like.
Last year, the number of foreign soldiers killed in combat in Afghanistan passed the symbolic mark of one thousand. But even more dramatic is the number of civilian casualties, which has increased by 40%.
The United Nations estimates that over 2,000 people were injured or killed in 2008 in the fighting between foreign forces, Afghan troops and Taliban insurgents, and that 235,000 have been displaced.
The subject is a major preoccupation for the foreign forces, who were accused again last week of being guilty of what they euphemistically call “collateral damage”. It is also a political hot button for President Hamid Karzai, only a few months from a presidential election he hopes to win again.
The American troop reinforcements which US President Barack Obama so dearly wants are unlikely to help: the Afghans know that means the fighting will only intensify. As for the hope of a return to normality, that looks like an ever more distant prospect.
Our reporters visited the southern provinces of Afghanistan to discover for themselves the daily lives of the inhabitants of the region, caught in the crossfire.
They went to meet displaced people installed in makeshift camps, without real means of assistance. They are the ones who could tip the balance during the upcoming elections.