Sunday, August 28, 2016


On Progress In Afghanistan

Girls and boys studying together, a novel approach
Girls and boys studying together, a novel approach
Who says Afghanistan has not made progress in the past 10 years? Though not by leaps and bounds, even a naive observer can see visible change in the country's politics, freedom of expression, human rights and even health, schooling, and communications.

A recent four-day sit-in by a group of legislators in front of the Afghan parliament is the latest example of the headway -- albeit marginal -- in the landlocked country beset by 30 long years of war and interference from regional as well as global powers.

To be sure, Afghanistan has severe problems, namely a precarious security situation. But this too, like several other problems, has less to do with Afghan society and more to do with the neighborhood. Too often, it is Afghanistan's neighbors' interests -- or the clash thereof -- that contributes to the suffering of Afghans.

True, the international community has not succeeded in achieving its security objectives. But, Afghans have courts, a police system, an army, and an elected president and parliament dispensing their day-to-day functions. There is corruption and cronyism, and the elections are not up to Western standards, but in all of this there is progress.

A majority of Afghans now prefer even the corrupt government and rigged elections over the rule by powerful men, warlords or the Taliban. To many, a corrupt President Hamid Karzai is far better than a pious Mullah Mohammad Omar. People are no longer hanged or stoned to death in public, hands are not chopped off in playgrounds, women are (generally) not beaten for failing to cover themselves or venturing outside without being accompanied by a male relative.

Millions of Afghan girls and boys are now enrolled in schools, colleges, and universities; women hold public office, and given more professional opportunities; the media is free and vibrant; hundreds of kilometers of roads have been -- or are being -- constructed; most Afghans have access to mobile phones with thousands using Facebook, Twitter, and the Internet generally; health centers are being built even in remote villages and voices being raised against human rights violators.

With all of these things, there are certainly glaring issues. Mobile phones are hardly a panacea to development problems, maternal health care remains inaccessible for thousands, and corruption causes many development projects to sit idle. But, to say Afghanistan is not making progress -- as many are prone to opine -- is both not true and an affront to the people working tirelessly to improve the lives of Afghans.

Had the late Ahmad Shah Masud and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar opted for talks instead of guns, rockets, and tanks, and staged peaceful protests like the Afghan legislators, the history of Afghanistan could have been without its Taliban chapter. To many, this may not matter a lot, but change is coming and it is visible. What is needed at this point from the international community and the United States is not to leave Afghans and Afghanistan at the crossroad and let the change fully mature.

-- Daud Khattak

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Comment Sorting
by: Wahid from: Germany
August 19, 2011 10:04
Sure, there have been many progresses in Afghanistan, but there are still fears of civil war. Why? Because the structure of society is missing. The Afghan-Government, established by USA and its allies, is based on the foul compromises and one main principle: capitalism. The feeling of united country and common interest of society is missing. Who denies this fact, is starry-eyed. Unfortunately, the history can be repeated. Though Massud is died, but his successors think only about their clan, money and political power.

by: Stuart from: Uk
August 19, 2011 13:09
Please excuse my ignorance but I thought Massoud was a hero of Afghanistan helping to end to soviet tyranny and establish a stable afghan government until the Taliban forced their way into power? I apologise if I have my facts wrong.

by: Abdullah from: Canada
August 20, 2011 06:15
There have been enormous development in Afghanistan which is intangible. For most of the Afghans, they want to see chances overnight. Afghanistan's institution can't be build in a couple of years, its require a generation of educated populations.

by: SLt David Lewis from: Kabul, Afghanistan
August 20, 2011 10:24
The landscape here in Afghanistan is changing for the better, because it is changing from the inside out.

Indigenous leadership is developing with an attitude of ownership and accountability. Those whom until recently were being trained are now distinguishing themselves as adept and exemplary trainers.

Since the NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan was stood up over 21 months ago, we can say that developing the Afghan forces is well on track. There are 34 countries, under NATO command, which are dedicated and committed to ensuring that Afghanistan’s security institutions (Army, Air Force, and Police) are self-sufficient, self-sustaining, and enduring.

Over the past two years, an additional 113,000 Afghan soldiers and police have been trained and are working with 130,000 NATO. In seven areas of Afghanistan, encompassing 20 percent of the population, Afghan Army and Police are already leading security efforts. Local militias are integrating into the formal security structure; commerce is returning; and schools are opening. GDP has increased from $170 under the Taliban to $1,000 per capita in 2010, almost all Afghans now have access to basic health services (only nine percent did in 2002), school enrollment increased from 900,000 (mainly boys) to almost seven million (37 percent girls), and women now serve in government. Most of the country is now connected via mobile phones and highways. The powerful force of social media is altering the landscape as over one million Afghans have internet access and over 215,000 have facebook accounts. We have seen from recent world event what a powerful force social media can be.

As someone who is privileged to work within the NATO training mission I am pleased to see solid progress on a daily basis. Effective and capable Afghan leaders are assuming responsibility at all levels.

It is their attitude of stewardship for their own country which is the greatest source of encouragement. There is a long way to go, but every day, we are a little closer.
In Response

by: Nice to See from: AZ
August 20, 2011 14:30
It is nice to see someone from the inside writing and sharing what is really happening in Afghanistan. We here in the states just hear the sound bites and it sounds different depending on the spin i.e., fox vs cnn or msnbc put on it.
Thank you and all (we have a son there) for your service and reminding us what good is being done, a realistic view, no spin perhaps if reporting like this was given a more positive view would be had here.
Stay Safe, Stay Strong

by: Paul Griffin from: USA
August 25, 2011 02:56
It is very important to measure the forward progress of a fledgling democracy, rather than merely compare it's current situation to a perceived perfect standard. And, I appreciate willingness of the the staff of RFE/RL in presenting a picture which, for some reason, is usually missing in reports on the situation.

About Gandhara

Gandhara is a blog dedicated to Afghanistan and Pakistan written by RFE/RL journalists from Radio Mashaal (Pakistan), Radio Azadi (Afghanistan), our Central Newsroom, and other services. Here, our people on the ground will provide context, analysis, and some opinions on news from the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. Send comments or questions to gandhara [at]