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Afghans Welcome Foreign Aid


Afghans are welcoming the $4.5 billion in aid pledged by the international community at a two-day donor's conference in Japan. They hope the foreign assistance will help provide stability and rebuild their country, which has been devastated by more than two decades of war.

This is mid-day at one of Kabul's main traffic circles and 40-year-old traffic officer Khair Mohammad is in the midst of the seeming chaos, blowing his whistle and directing cars, bicycles and pedestrians. He comes here despite the fact that he hasn't been paid in months.

He says everyone knows the new government has no money, but he says with international aid about to come into the country, he hopes the government will be able to pay salaries. Khair Mohammad says the money pledged by the international community is a good step towards peace and he hopes reconstruction can now begin.

University student Ziawul Haq agrees that the country desperately needs peace and stability after more than 20 years of war. He hopes the government will focus on rebuilding the education system. And, he says Afghanistan's competing political and ethnic factions need to put aside their own interests in order to bring peace and stability.

Sixteen-year-old Arozo and a friend have just come from a private class. Both girls are covered from head to toe in the traditional Afghan "burka."

Arozo says she is grateful for the assistance that has been promised. She says it's good the international community realizes that Afghans need help. She says she hopes education, especially for women, will be a high priority as reconstruction of the country begins.

Gratitude and hope characterize the general reaction of Afghans here to the news that the international community has pledged more than $4.5 billion in aid to help rebuild Afghanistan. Afghans hope this will secure peace and some sort of normal life where people receive salaries, can earn a living, obtain housing and get an education.

And so much needs rebuilding here. Even in the capital city, reliable electricity and clean water are in short supply. Schools and hospitals need to be rebuilt. Roads are in poor condition and so much of the city is pure rubble, demolished in the civil war.

Throughout much of the rest of the country, people are in desperate need of food, shelter and medical care. And there is the lack of security. Militias need to be disarmed and jobs found for those returning to civilian life. A national army and police force need to be built along with much of the rest of civil society. Afghanistan needs to be rebuilt from the bottom up and Afghans are hoping the international aid will go a long way in doing just that.

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