Driving in Kabul
On to Gardez
All the women I saw during the two days on the road, in many hours in good
weather, through small towns and Gardez, could have been counted on my fingers
and toes. More women are seen in Kabul, also older school girls and young women,
dressed in black from neck to shoes, white scarves covering their hair. But streets are mostly for the men. Many women
remain in burkas, especially away from the center of Kabul
where most of the embassies are, as in the photo below.
Nowhere along the route between Kabul
and Gardez, in Gardez, or between Gardez and Zurmat did I see electric power
poles with wires. Kabul
has a few poles, but many are without wires. New poles and wiring have been
recently installed in the southwest part of the city near the old palace. Much
of Kabul, though, is still without power. The countryside will wait its turn.
Though the countryside has been stripped of most of its
trees, Afghanistan is still reliant on firewood for heating and cooking. We passed many
firewood markets, and many trucks loaded with firewood on the road. The wood
appears to be some kind of mesquite, twisted and thick, not straight and clear
like pine or oak. It pained me to see the firewood, and hope for a day when the country can be green with trees again.
Afghanistan’s King Amanullah - in my opinion one of
the most remarkable and far-seeing rulers in history - looked at the west in
the 1920s and saw much to like (http://www.afghanland.com/history/amanullah.html).
He tried to bring social, religious and
political reform to
Afghanistan, much as we are trying to do in Iraq
today. The reforms angered the clerics and threatened the powerful. He was
overthrown in 1929, and spent the next 31 years in exile. Afghanistan
spent the next 80 years stuck back in the 14th century.
An awful lot of blood, money and work has been poured
into this country. We removed the Taliban and their harboring of Al Qaeda. Now we’re helping build schools,
infrastructure, and democracy. The Afghan people themselves make it easy to lend
a hand. Not to romanticize them, but they stood up to and defeated both the
British and Russian empires. With remarkable obstacles to overcome, they are
getting a chance to stand as an independent nation, much as
did in 1953. I fervently hope the Afghans make the best of this opportunity. That said, if
the warlords or mullahs return to power, if
the country falls back into chaos, I think it will be a long, long time
until anyone ever comes back to help.