Soon after the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, the U.S. and its NATO allies went to war in Afghanistan to drive the Taliban from power and root out al-Qaida terrorists hiding there. That war is still going strong.
Post Taliban life
Mohammad Yaseen Jan is educating his children for a future that is far from certain. He returned to Afghanistan from Iran soon after U.S. and NATO troops arrived nearly 10 years ago. He thought then that peace had finally come to his tortured homeland.
"When we were refugees they didn’t even treat us as human," he says. "When we came back to living in Kabul security had gotten better. We can even earn a loaf of bread. We are happy and hope that God almighty brings more security to Afghanistan and we will be able to enjoy a better life."
Yaseen's girls now attend school in Kabul, no longer restricted by the Taliban's authoritarian rule. The Afghan capital has a democratically elected government. NATO and Afghan troops protect wide areas of the country. But the Taliban remain a threat, and Afghanistan is not a nation at peace.
Will the West abandon Afghanistan?
Poverty is widespread, corruption endemic. Opium poppy production and illegal drug trafficking are a way of life. Even the promise of wealth that vast mineral deposits offer is years in the future. Afghan parliament member Fawzai Koofi worries that the West will abandon her country, leaving Afghanistan to repeat the turmoil that followed the Soviet withdrawal in 1989 and the Taliban's rise to power.
"Our fear is that with the withdrawal, early withdrawal, without finishing this war properly and bringing a sustainable peace, the situation will grow worse than it was in 1992," Koofi says. " And the negative consequences, increasing insecurity and the Talibanization of the process in Afghanistan, is not only worse on us, as women, as people of Afghanistan but, believe me, it’s going to be worse on you."
NATO is already winding down its combat role in Afghanistan. The U.S. plans to pull its troops out by 2014. The emphasis now is on turning the Afghan National Army into a competent security force and finding some way to reconcile with some elements of the Taliban. Both sides hope to negotiate from a position of power. But all Mohammed Yaseen Jan wants is for his children to grow up and for Afghanistan to be a better place.
"If peace is restored to Afghanistan, our children can go to school, graduate and serve their nation," he says. "But if the Americans get out of Afghanistan and the security gets worse again, we will have to leave Afghanistan. We will sell everything we have and we will migrate again."
And that will mean the end of the Yaseens' dream of a better life, and leave Afghanistan to face more years of war.