|Kabul: 11:53 AM      |
Welcome to Kabul:Reconstructions. You can follow the information below, which has been gathered from a
number of sources by a number of participants (click on the names at left for bios), to reconstruct your
own picture of events in Kabul since this site was launched on March 8th, 2003 and, in a sense, since the
reconstruction of Afghanistan began somewhere in the winter of 2001-02.
Some of this information has been provided in response to specific questions submitted by visitors like you. Please note that this section of the project is now maintained as an archive and has not been updated since 2005. Click here to ASK A QUESTION.
Arian Mouj Sharifi
Two years after the fall - NPR
National Public Radio (NPR) SHOW: All Things Considered September 2, 2003 (9:00 PM ET) Situation in Afghanistan two years after the fall of the Taliban ROBERT SIEGEL, host: From NPR News, it's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel. MELISSA BLOCK, host: And I'm Melissa Block. US forces and their allies in Afghanistan are engaged in Operation Mountain Viper, the latest offensive against the remnants of the Taliban. For the past eight days, ground troops have been attacking Taliban strongholds in the southeast near the border with Pakistan. At times they've supported by warplanes and combat helicopters. SIEGEL: It's been nearly two years since the Taliban and its al-Qaeda allies were driven from power in Afghanistan. Security remains a problem in most parts of the country, and the reconstruction process is moving slowly. But there has been some progress, as we hear from NPR's Michael Sullivan. MICHAEL SULLIVAN reporting: In the capital, Kabul, business is booming. Small-scale reconstruction projects are sprouting all over this city, financed largely by Afghans who've returned following the rout of the Taliban. More than two million Afghans have come back to Afghanistan so far. During Taliban times, traffic was almost non-existent in the capital; now gridlock is a daily occurrence. (Soundbite of traffic and horn) SULLIVAN: For more than 20 years, war-weary Afghans fled their country, becoming refugees working for next to nothing in neighboring Pakistan and Iran. Now with so much construction going on there is a shortage of skilled Afghan labor, so Pakistani laborers are now coming here for work, reversing the trend of the past two decades. Zahir Kahn(ph), a Pakistani mason, says he can make far more working here than he can back home. Mr. ZAHIR KAHN (Pakistani Mason): (Through Translator) I make twice as much a day here as I would in Pakistan. There, I would get maybe 200 rupees, a little more than $3 a day. Here, I make nearly 500 rupees a day. SULLIVAN: This building site is swarming with workmen. They've completed the first floor of what the owner says will be a three-story, eight-bedroom house. Fifty-year-old Akan Aga says he's already put $80,000 into the project. He says he'll spend at least another $80,000 before it's finished. Mr. AKAN AGA: (Through Translator) The reconstruction you see going on here and the money I'm spending on this house show that the situation is improving; otherwise, I'd be taking my money to Pakistan or the US or Europe. If I'm here, it means things are getting better. SULLIVAN: Getting better, in part, because Kabul is patrolled by 5,000 NATO-led troops who help ensure law and order while the new Afghan National Army and police force are created. Outside of Kabul, however, it's a different story. Afghan officials, aid workers and diplomats alike say security is the biggest challenge facing Afghanistan as it tries to rebuild. David Sedney is the charge at the US Embassy in Kabul. Mr. DAVID SEDNEY (US Embassy, Kabul): Whether it's factional fighting in the north, whether it's problems with commanders, local commanders extorting and exploiting people, or whether it's incursions of the Taliban, Hezb-e-Islami or other groups in the south and the east, security around the country is the biggest problem, but it's different in many different areas. (Soundbite of construction site) SULLIVAN: In the southern city of Kandahar, residents say, the security problem stems from the private armies of the former governor and other minor warlords. Like Kabul, Kandahar is awash in small-scale reconstruction projects, and carpenters struggle to turn out enough window and door frames to satisfy demand. Unlike Kabul, however, where shops and restaurants are open late into the evening, Kandaharis prefer to stay home at night, at least for now. Shopkeeper Meersa Gool(ph) says it's safer that way. Mr. MEERSA GOOL (Shopkeeper): (Through Translator) They have no security here. If you have a motorcycle, the men with uniforms will take it from you. They'll even take your coat and look through your pockets. And if you resist, they'll kill you. SULLIVAN: Last month President Hamid Karzai replaced the governor of Kandahar, Gul Agha Shirzai, in a bid to assert the authority of the central government. Unfortunately, residents say, Gul Agha's private army stayed on. Khalid Pashtoon is spokesman for the new governor, Yusef Pashtoon. Mr. KHALID PASHTOON (Governor's Spokesman): Only the governor has changed. The same forces still remain in Kandahar. If they were bad, they are still bad. If they were good, they are good now. The same commanders, the same soldiers are still here. They're not going to be switched, either, unless the central government send in the new ANA, the National Army's graduates. SULLIVAN: But the new Afghan National Army is not yet ready, and that, says former Kandahar police chief General Akram(ph), is the fundamental problem for Kandahar and the nation. General AKRAM (Former Kandahar Police Chief): (Through Translator) It's impossible to bring law and order until we destroy the private armies. Until we have a security force which is under the control of the central government, we will not have democracy here. (Soundbite of music) Unidentified Man #1: (Singing in foreign language) SULLIVAN: One of the most powerful warlords in the country, Ismail Khan, lives in the western city of Herat. Khan is a legendary mujaheddin commander from the war against the Soviets. His province is far from the capital, closer physically, culturally and linguistically to neighboring Iran than to the rest of Afghanistan. Iranian music blares from street vendors' boom boxes. Iranian goods stock the shelves of local markets. (Soundbite of bells jingling and traffic) SULLIVAN: On the streets of Herat, horse carts compete with flashy sports utility vehicles imported through Iran. Customs revenues from the trade with Iran and neighboring Turkmenistan have made Ismail Khan's Herat a wealthy place by Afghan standards. Residents say security is good and Ismail Khan's army well-disciplined, but that security, people say, comes at a steep price. Ismail Khan runs his province like a police state. A local businessman, who calls himself Mohammad Elias(ph), explains the penalty for speaking out against the self-styled emir of Herat. Mr. MOHAMMAD ELIAS (Businessman): (Through Translator) His soldiers would kill us, it's that simple. If they found out someone's speaking against him, that person disappears. SULLIVAN: Ophthalmologist Raolfa Niazi(ph) is careful not to criticize Ismail Khan directly. 'He has done some good things,' she says, but she laments the plight of women under Ismail Khan's rule. 'He is a religious fundamentalist,' she says. 'And while things aren't as bad as they were under the Taliban,' Niazi says, 'they're not as good as they once were either.' Ms. RAOLFA NIAZI (Ophthalmologist): (Through Translator) During the rule of King Zahir Shah and Dr. Najibullah, Herat was the most progressive and civilized city in all Afghanistan, and women were free to do the same work as men, but now the situation is such that women have to wear the veil and work in low-ranking jobs. We want more freedom and the right to work with men as equals. SULLIVAN: Many Heratis say they respect Ismail Khan's abilities as a fighter and his efforts at reconstruction, but they also complain he has rewarded his commanders with powerful ministries they lack the expertise to run. Heratis also complain of widespread corruption in the government as well. Ismail Khan's spokesman, Ula Muhammad Muswun(ph) rejects these charges. Mr. ULA MUHAMMAD MUSWUN (Ismail Khan's Spokesman): (Through Translator) All the work that Ismail Khan has done here he has done in consultation with the people, and he will continue to work with the people in order to do whatever is best for the province. SULLIVAN: Many in President Karzai's government would like to see Ismail Khan go, too. Like many warlords, his allegiance to the Karzai government is suspect. He has refused to accept local appointments made by Kabul. For more than a year he refused to send millions in customs revenues to the capital, though some money has recently started to flow. In another symbolic victory for President Karzai, Ismail Khan recently agreed to relinquish his post as military commander of the province. Critics say the recent changes are merely cosmetic. Dealing with regional warlords and their private armies is just one of the security challenges facing the Karzai government; dealing with a resurgent Taliban is another. (Soundbite of vehicle running) Unidentified Man #2: (Foreign language spoken) SULLIVAN: At this check post along the main highway in Zabul province near the border with Pakistan, police are carefully searching private vehicles for weapons. In the past few months, the Taliban has stepped up its attacks on Afghan security forces, international aid workers and other symbols of the new government. As a result of the upsurge in violence, Zabul and much of the south and east are now off limits to the United Nations and private aid groups. Sarah Chayes is a former NPR reporter who is now Kandahar field director for the group Afghans for Civil Society. She says the Taliban has a strategy--one she says appears to be working. Ms. SARAH CHAYES (Afghans for Civil Society): The objective is clearly to disrupt the reconstruction process, to try to show that the central government and its alliance with the international community is not able to provide assistance to the Afghans. SULLIVAN: The US and Afghan governments, with help from other donors, are accelerating the training of the new Afghan National Army and police force to help deal with the deteriorating security situation. Without them in place, reconstruction and demobilization and disarmament of the private armies will be difficult. So, too, will be the task of holding free and fair elections, scheduled for June. (Soundbite of construction site) SULLIVAN: But there are signs of improvement in Afghanistan, and not just in the capital. The highest-profile reconstruction project by far is the US-led effort to rebuild the road linking Kabul to the southern city of Kandahar. President Bush set a deadline of year's end for the completion of the road. It's hard to see how that deadline will be met. Fewer than 15 miles have been paved so far. Clearing mines along the way is a time-consuming, ongoing affair. Attacks on workers slow progress, too. Even more frustrating, perhaps, for engineers is trying to repave a road while people are using it, but shutting down the country's main north/south artery isn't feasible. Despite these hurdles, a lot of work has already been done. Much of the road has been graded and, as a result, what used to be a 15-and-a-half-hour trip has now been cut almost in half. Twenty-eight-year-old Nasir(ph) is one of the Afghan engineers working on this stretch of the highway. NASIR (Afghan Engineer): (Through Translator) This is going to help us a lot. We don't have a single good road in Afghanistan. Once this one is finished, the police will be able to patrol it better, so security will improve. People will also be able to get the fruits and vegetables to market quicker, and it will make it easier to get sick people to the hospital. All these things will be good for our country. SULLIVAN: In many ways, the highway project is a metaphor for Afghanistan today. It's not as far along as many had hoped, but it is still in far better shape than it was before the US-led intervention. It could, of course, all turn bad in a hurry if ethnic tensions within the government can't be resolved peacefully, if the Taliban manage to convince enough people that the Americans are occupiers and Karzai's government their puppet, and if the warlords can't be disarmed. It took more than 20 years of war to destroy Afghanistan. It's likely to take a long time to rebuild it, too. The US says it's committed to seeing the process through. Afghans are hoping and praying it makes good on that promise. Michael Sullivan, NPR News.
Posted By: mariam   September 9th 2003, 2003 11:28 AM
Kabul: Partial Reconstructions is an installation
and public dialogue project that explores the multiple meanings and resonances of
the idea of reconstruction -- as both process and metaphor -- in the context of present-day Kabul.
www.kabul-reconstructions.net is an online discussion forum, information resource, and medium for the communication of questions and answers about the reconstruction between people inside and outside the city of Kabul itself.