As the Afghan war tapers down, US national security and the American sense of compassion now coincide: Food and shelter are needed immediately for Afghans, but so, too, is long-term aid that will enable Afghanistan to no longer be a haven for global terrorists.
Getting this ravaged nation back on its feet won't be easy or quick. Foreign peacekeepers are needed soon to secure delivery of aid for millions of destitute people. Then foreign donors must find a way around the warlords in various regions to develop roads, bridges, power, and other means for economic development.
One real and symbolic step of progress was the opening last week of the Friendship Bridge (closed since 1997) on the Uzbek-Afghan border. That should allow the first massive flow of aid before winter fully sets in.
A lengthy drought continues to take its toll, and one-third of Afghans still inside the country are hungry. Two-thirds of the 1.8 million residents of the capital, Kabul, don't have enough to eat, according to the UN World Food Program. Tens of thousands there are said to subsist on bread, tea, and potatoes. Reports of unfair distribution of needed supplies are cause for concern.
Relief experts are rightly focusing on Afghan women. Downtrodden by the Taliban, they have a pressing need for immediate assistance. But relief and long-term efforts at rebuilding the nation must work hand in hand. Such development must especially be targeted at farmers who may be tempted to resume growing opium for heroin exports, mainly to Europe. Aid can also be a lever to force political factions within a new government to work together in democratic ways.
Preventing another war on terrorism is as important as fighting the current one.