WEYAND, AFGHANISTAN -- In the wilds of rural Afghanistan, where the Taliban roam freely and government authority has disintegrated, Canada has launched a brave effort to offer an alternative to Taliban rule.
The aid project, the brainchild of the Canadian International Development Agency, was unveiled under tight security at a meeting of 300 tribal elders yesterday in a dusty desert village in the heart of Taliban territory in northeastern Kandahar province.
The new Canadian program, created by CIDA, is an unprecedented exercise in consulting Afghans on their own needs and priorities. It aims to rebuild the shattered authority of Afghanistan's local governments, giving people control of their own schools and clinics, and making the Taliban a much less attractive option.
"It's a uniquely Canadian approach," said an official of Canada's provincial reconstruction team in Kandahar. "It's never been done before. The whole point is community participation. If an insurgent comes to burn your school, you're more likely to defend it if it's your own school."