International agencies,including the Canadian International Development Agency, have failed to tackle the food emergency in southern Afghanistan, and NATO soldiers in the region are paying the price, a new report says.

The paper, released Thursday by the Senlis Council, an international think tank, says "misguided" policies by agencies such as CIDA and the British Department for International Development have left the local population hungry and angry towards the international community.

"The Taliban are waging a successful hearts-and-minds strategy in southern Afghanistan; the international community is not," the report says. "As a result, the [NATO] military forces on the ground are forced to fight in an increasingly hostile environment."

The development and security think tank says there is more "destruction than reconstruction" in southern Afghanistan, blaming aerial bombing missions and a "wholly military approach" forthe failure to win over Afghans.

The report offered three key recommendations to improve the situation:

  • Developing afood aid outreach program to reach urban and rural areas.
  • Improved reporting of civilian loss to bombing campaigns, with an assessment of humanitarian consequences of such attacks.
  • An immediate stop to poppy eradication with controlled cultivation put in place.

Afghanistan currently produces some 6,100 tonnes of opium every year, worth more than $50 billion US each year and accounting for 92 per cent of the world's opium supply.

Norine MacDonald,Senlis's lead field researcher in Kandahar, says the U.S.-led mission to eradicate the poppy crop will deal a harsh economic blow to farming communities, fuelling further violence and mistrust towards the international forces.

"It is tantamount to chemical warfare," she said in a release. "History from the Vietnam war and the use of Agent Orange will repeat itself when the U.S. once again poisons vulnerable local populations whilst destroying the already damaged and fragile eco-system of southern Afghanistan."

The Selis report was released with a short documentary, Hearts and Minds in Afghanistan: Zroona aw Zehnoona, featuring interviews with Afghan citizens in which they talk about how the international community has failed them in the past five years.