SANG-I-KHEL, Afghanistan (Reuters) - The United States' decision to send thousands more troops to Afghanistan will mean little to the people of northern Sang-i-Khel village whose fight is not against Taliban insurgents but against hunger.
Last week, U.S. President Barack Obama ordered 17,000 additional U.S. soldiers to Afghanistan to tackle an intensifying insurgency across the south and east of the country.
Yet in the relatively peaceful north, Afghans face a different struggle. Severe drought and soaring food prices have left hundreds of thousands of people facing a daily battle to survive the winter.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) says some 280,000 Afghans in the north of the country are suffering from the drought, the worst in a decade, and are unable to meet their basic food needs.
But the US, curiously enough, is sending most of its aid to the parts of the country where people are not starving:
While Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world, dependent on billions of dollars in foreign aid every year, poverty varies by region. Some areas are much better off than others.
Southern Helmand province, where more than two-thirds of the country's illicit opium is produced and where the insurgency is strongest, is among the top three richest provinces by most indicators, according to a 2008 report by the United Nations.
Helmand has the highest rate of car ownership in the entire country.
Yet southern provinces such as Helmand get most of the aid despite their relative affluence and their role as the center of Afghanistan's estimated $3 billion illicit drugs trade industry.
The U.S. international development agency (USAID) is by far the biggest aid donor in Afghanistan and has pumped millions of dollars into Helmand. If Helmand were a country it would be the fifth largest recipient of USAID funding.
Helmand was pledged $403 per person in aid between 2007-2008 compared to $153 in Balkh, aid agencies said. Neighboring Sari-i-Pol and Kunduz provinces fared much worse with $53 and $55 per person.
This, apparently, is how we support the Karzai government...
And this is why we're suddenly surprised that the Afghans are not flocking to our standards?