|Kabul: 12:09 PM      |
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
Meanwhile, on the road - WP
The Washington Post September 06, 2003 Attacks Slowing Key Afghan Road; Deadly Nighttime Assault at Police Post Seen as Evidence of Resurgent Taliban By Pamela Constable Even on a good day, progress along the 300-mile highway between Kabul and Kandahar, Afghanistan's two major cities, is painfully slow. In a few spots, massive machines inch along under the hot sun, laying a coat of asphalt that extends perhaps 100 yards by dusk. Ahead wait endless stretches of rutted, sandy track, passing through parched lands of grazing sheep and camels. But on a bad day, it seems that forces more nefarious than equipment breakdowns, shipping delays or hot weather are determined to sabotage the U.S.-funded project to rebuild Afghanistan's most important road, the centerpiece of national reconstruction and reunification efforts. Just before midnight last Sunday, a gang of armed men on motorbikes attacked a police checkpoint near a camp for Indian and Afghan highway workers in this remote district of Zabol province. Six of the sleeping guards were killed, several others were kidnapped and two vehicles were incinerated by rockets and gunfire. "The people who did this do not want Afghanistan to be rebuilt," said Mahmoud Sozan, 40, a shopkeeper in Shah Joi, a town about three-quarters of the way from Kabul to Kandahar. "This road has been destroyed by fighting since I was a boy. If it is paved again, we will be able to send our grapes and melons to the cities much faster. But these strangers who come in the night, they want to stop everything." None of the assailants was caught, but officials suspect they were part of a newly regrouped and well-organized force of fighters from the Taliban, the Islamic militia that ruled Afghanistan for six years and was overthrown in late 2001. Since July, more than 200 Afghans have been killed in bombings and other guerrilla assaults blamed on the Taliban. Two weeks ago, in their boldest offensive to date, as many as 1,000 Taliban fighters occupied a mountainous region of Zabol called Dai Chupan between the highway and the Pakistani border. U.S. military forces responded by launching Operation Mountain Viper, which combined sustained bombing with ground attacks by hundreds of Afghan and U.S. forces. On Wednesday, Afghan security officials in Zabol announced that they had driven most renegade fighters out of the province and that 125 bodies of dead enemy fighters had been found. But Taliban commanders -- who felt bold enough to name their own provincial governor last week -- reportedly said they had only made a tactical retreat. In the wake of Sunday's attack near the highway camp, project officials in Kabul said they have asked Afghan and U.S. military authorities for extra protection in addition to the 800 Afghan troops that currently patrol the highway in trucks or stand guard at roadwork sites. But they insisted that the work would proceed and be completed, on schedule, by year's end. "We are committed to having a paved road by December 31st. There is a determination to carry on, but security does have to be beefed up," said Michael Staples, a spokesman for the U.S.-based Louis Berger Group, which is overseeing the $ 250 million reconstruction contract for the U.S. Agency for International Development. Japan is funding the last 50 kilometers -- about 30 miles. Staples said rebuilding the highway is an important "symbol of unification" for Afghanistan after 25 years of conflict, as well as a practical means of speeding goods, services and government authority to remote regions of this impoverished nation. But the project, which President Hamid Karzai named one of his top priorities after taking office in December 2001, was plagued by repeated bureaucratic and financial delays. An official ribbon-cutting was held in October 2002, but work did not begin in earnest until May, with bids awarded to Turkish, Indian and Afghan American firms to build five sections of road. The logistics were daunting enough; power shovels, drums of asphalt and virtually everything else had to be imported by air or road. While most grading has now been completed, paving is still in the early stages. The journey between Kabul and Kandahar, while swifter and less jolting than a year ago, is still marred by patches of deep sand, zigzagging detours and cratered sections of old asphalt destroyed by tanks, land mines and thousands of cargo trucks. From the beginning, the job has also been fraught with danger. Much of the route had to be cleared of mines left from the civil war of the 1990s, a painstaking process in which teams test the earth square by square, using trowels, metal detectors and dogs. The de-mining teams, working alone in remote areas of the ethnic Pashtun heartland that brought forth the Taliban, were also easy targets for saboteurs. One de-miner was killed in May, causing work to be temporarily suspended, while others have been beaten or had their vehicles burned by unknown attackers. But Sunday's brutal assault, coming at a time of unprecedented Taliban resurgence, has sent new jitters up and down the highway, where gas stations and restaurants sporting colorful flags and neon lights have been built in anticipation of a long-distance traffic boom. Along the route this week, people expressed anger at the attack and fear that the project would be suspended. Many said repairing the road was so important to the country's future that they could not believe other Afghans -- even the Taliban -- would sabotage it. Instead, they blamed next-door Pakistan and its powerful intelligence agencies, accusing them of seeking to destabilize Afghanistan and paying saboteurs to slip across the border. "Pakistan does not want Afghanistan to improve. It pushes people and pays them to do these things," said Mohammed Nader, an engineer who was supervising a paving operation in Ghazni province. He also said he had heard that Taliban forces were distributing leaflets at mosques telling local people not to be afraid, because their aim was only "to stop the Americans." Tensions between Pakistani and Afghan authorities have been running high in recent months, with widespread reports of Taliban forces and guerrillas loyal to fugitive Afghan militia leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar being given safe haven inside Pakistan. Pakistani officials deny sheltering the renegades and blame the long, porous border and its lawless tribal areas for the problem. Gen. Sayed Ahmed, an Afghan army official from Ghazni who is investigating the attack, said the circumstances were murky and that there were indications the checkpoint commander may have been cooperating with the Taliban. He said he was bringing 60 additional troops to guard the area. "For two months I have been patrolling this highway, and this is the first fatal incident," Ahmed said as he indicated the charred hulk of a van resting in front of the now-abandoned checkpoint and the spots where the guards' bodies had lain. "My job is to make sure this road gets built. If I need more men, I will ask for them." Along the highway, the rash of conflicting rumors surrounding Sunday's attack reflected the confusion and prejudices of postwar Afghan society. Many Afghans harbor long-standing animosity toward Pakistan, while many rural Pashtun communities still harbor goodwill toward the Taliban. In contrast, the 800 Indians and Turks carrying out much of the roadwork, from surveying to driving bulldozers, have been living in an isolated bubble. They know little about Afghanistan, speak none of its dialects, work on remote sites in the rural semi-desert and live in temporary roadside camps. Attempts to speak with some of them this week ended mostly in frustration, and the project manager said the attack would have no effect on the work. But one English-speaking Indian worker, resting in his camp just down the road from Sunday's attack, looked bleak and murmured, "We all have fear in our hearts now." For residents of Shah Joi, the central preoccupation is making sure nothing stops the highway from being built. After years of war and drought, they said, the local economy has fallen into such ruin that the town is full of single men who cannot afford to pay the customary bride price. "This road will be a great blessing to us. We can get our patients to the hospital sooner and send our products to markets faster. Foreign agencies will come and everyone will be busy," said Hayatullah, a tractor driver. "We like Karzai and we like the Americans, but only if they bring us security and the reconstruction goes on. This is the future of our country."
Posted By: mariam   September 9th 2003, 2003 11:37 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.