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Afghan refugee numbers hit 10-year high as NATO troops prepare to exit

Numbers suggest rising anxiety about life in the war-torn nation after foreign troops leave in 2014.

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Afghan men wait to receive winter supplies at a UNHCR distribution center for needy refugees on the outskirts of Kabul on Dec 27. The head of the United Nations refugee program in Afghanistan described its strategy in the war-wracked country as the 'biggest mistake UNHCR ever made.' (SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images)

More than 30,000 Afghans fled their home country in the first 11 months of last year, marking a 25 percent increase over the previous year and more than three times the number recorded four years ago, The Associated Press reported.

The number was the highest of any year in the decade since Western countries invaded the Central Asian nation following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and suggested that many Afghan civilians see little future in their nation after the coming departure of international troops, the news agency said.

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The numbers were obtained by the AP from the UN but have yet to be officially released. The AP said a thriving human smuggling industry had sprung up to serve Afghans who are eager to send their children, mainly their sons, abroad and willing to pay hundreds of dollars for passage across a land border or up to $25,000 for identity papers and tickets to Western capitals.

The number of refugees returning is diminishing, according to the AP, underscoring fears about what will happen when NATO’s International Security Assistance Force departs in less than two years.

Citing the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, the AP said smuggling Afghans out of their country is a $1 billion dollar business annually.

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CNN reported today that Marc Grossman, the US special envoy for the Afghanistan-Pakistan corridor, had met in Kabul with President Hamid Karzai to discuss peace and reconciliation, a matter that may concern many who fear life in a post-NATO Afghanistan.
 

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/afghanistan/120121/afghan-refugee-numbers-hit-10-year-high-nato-t