News reports from Kabul say frustration has been growing among Afghans that, despite billions of dollars in aid promised by foreign donors, their lives have yet to improve. This at a time when Afghanistan marks the one year anniversary of the victorious allied take-over of Kabul. Betty Van Etten takes a look at what happened then and it’s impact on the lives of Afghans today.
One year ago jubilant Kabul residents gave a hero’s welcome to Northern Alliance troops as they entered the Afghan capital.
Supported by intense bombing by U.S. warplanes, these long-time foes of Afghanistan’s Taleban regime had occupied a number of cities in the north…and now advanced unopposed into Kabul after Taleban and al-Qaida forces had fled the city under the cover of darkness.
Now, the administration of president Hamid Karzai is struggling to build on a fragile peace, challenged by contentious provincial warlords and leftovers of al-Qaida and Taleban forces. United Nations representative Jean Arnaul.
JEAN ARNAULT, UNITED NATIONS REPRESENTATIVE (in French) “The main challenge here these days is undoubtedly security. And the main problem facing president Karzai is to bring about security without the help of international assistance forces, apart from Kabul.”
The International Assistance Force provides security in Kabul, but does not have the authority to operate countrywide.
Meanwhile, Afghanistan is building a national army. The new recruits are trained by international forces. But funds are lacking and the process is slow. Another challenge is to rebuild the shattered infrastructure. Workers are toiling around the clock to repair roads, to provide water, electricity and other services for Kabul’s residents.
The fall of the Taleban has brought major changes for women. Many still wear a burqa. But more and more now wear a headscarf. They have started to work again, while school-age girls have gone back to school.
But, despite all the international aid given to Afghanistan, for many, life is a daily struggle for survival. Abdul Qayoom gave up farming to find a better future in Kabul.
(Abdul Qayoom) “There are no jobs for poor people like us,” he says. The main breadwinner for his family of eight children, Qayoom says that he is forced to survive by collecting plastic bottles for recycling. Bottles, ironically, discarded by American troops.
U.S. troops continue operations against al-Qaida and Taleban holdouts in Afghanistan. They recently raided a mountain village, acting on intelligence that it was being used as a transit point for weapons smuggled from Pakistan. The soldiers say it is dangerous work.
STAFF SERGEANT GREENY, 82ND AIRBORNE DIVISION “Very dangerous. Every room that you go in to could possibly be bobby-trapped. There could be a hostile threat that may have not been taken out and been put into the holding area. It’s real dangerous… a very high possibility of somebody getting hurt.”
This time the troops found a number of armaments. Five people, including a village elder, were detained.
Such operations have now become routine in a shadowy war, as al-Qaida and Taleban holdouts lob rockets at U.S. bases and then dissolve into the hills and villages of the Afghan countryside.