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The 9/11 decade: Afghanistan's new beginning? | US & Canada | Al Jazeera
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From the Garden: Taking care of your plants and getting an early crop Michael Kelly A hardy crop of broad beans and homemade herbal tea is on the agenda from the garden, writes Michael Kelly. Contact Us Advertise With Us. Follow Us Twitter Facebook. Corrections Report Content. Please log in to comment. Please log in with facebook to become a fan. RSS feeds available here: TheJournal. These Shamali plains were a ghost-town all the way up to Parwan province, where the front line of the fragile Northern Alliance resistance, led by Ahmad Shah Massoud, seemed to be drawing its final breaths.
The Taliban were poised to conquer the final pockets of resistance and consolidate their rule all over the country that was weary of decades of factional war over the power vacuum left by the Soviet withdrawal. Massoud's close circle of confidants was in disarray as news of the attack on their leader broke out to the media.
They scrambled to hide the fact that their leader had died before he even made it to the hospital, claiming he was only wounded and recovering in Tajikistan. But for the Taliban government, the news brought unwanted international attention, and, in the words of their foreign minister at the time, "an unequal war" that subsequently toppled their regime. Ten years on, the country has changed dramatically. Under Hamid Karzai's leadership, a constitution has been drafted, and two terms of elections for the parliament and presidency, though marred by fraud and controversy, have been held.
Millions of children, especially girls who had been banned under the Taliban, have returned to school. Private businesses are booming, and the country has a free press, one of the most vibrant in the region. All in all, noticeable progress. But insecurity and violence continues. In the South of the country, particularly, people have suffered tremendously for an entire decade, caught between the Taliban from below and NATO airstrikes from above.
The immediate future of the country remains uncertain, despite ten years of war and revamped efforts for reconciliation that have led nowhere. Below are their views, translated by Al Jazeera. In my dream, I saw Afghanistan as a large building with UN and other flags around it. I can't recall the exact details now. But when we heard about the attacks in New York and later that there would be war launched in Afghanistan, I told my dream to my family.
No one would believe me. We did not consider the US intervention as illegitimate. For years, war and oppression had worn people out. We saw it as a window of hope that would bring fresh political air into the country. A year after the US intervention, my husband went to Khost province to get a job as a university professor and I went a long with him. I was offered the job as the provincial head of woman affairs. I started at the post three days after I had given birth to my child.
Unlike other women, I did not wear the burqa. People thought I was either crazy, or a foreigner. No such office [Directorate for Women's Affairs] existed there before, so the first space that we were given was almost like a barn where animals had been kept. We started from scratch, by repainting the place and building a vibrant office out of nothing. People are discontent with the central government—people have been distanced.
The struggle was that the women did not want to take the risk of working with me. I had to find ways of encouraging them. One such way was to hire their husbands as drivers or cooks and such, and then convince them to bring their wives to work with them. At the end of the first Karzai term, I remember visiting a mosque in one of the villages.
Over women gathered there. In those days, we did not even carry bodyguards and weapons during those visits. But last year, when I returned to campaign for re-election, I had to go under cover.
I switched houses every night, and I could not manage to hold even one public rally. During the past decade, we have definitely made progress in certain areas—the fact that we have a constitution, a system of governance, freedom of the press, the number of children going to school etc. But security has deteriorated in many areas and remains a big concern. We have not made the best use of the opportunity provided to us.
People are discontent with the central government— people have been distanced. And the foreigners, too, have made big mistakes. They barged into people's homes in the middle of the night, and dragged them out without giving them an opportunity to put their shirt on. I remember visiting my constituents held by intelligence agencies who only had their under shirt on. One of them had only one sandal on and wasn't even given the chance to find the second.
Such things leave a mark on the Afghan people. Undoubtedly, the foreigners have made sacrifices here— both in terms of lives, but also financially. But they have also made big mistakes and have been weak in their coordination. I was in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, as the spokesman for the United Front [anti-Taliban resistance] when the attacks happened. We had kept the news of Ahmad Shah Massoud's death away from the press for two days because we thought everything was over with his death. The resistance would be crushed right away.
We knew that Taliban, al-Qaeda, and the Pakistanis on the otherside of the Kokcha river would cross and end it all for us if they learned of Massoud's death. So September 11 was a relief for us—such a relief that I did not sleep from happiness all night. It was as if a knife placed on my throat had been lifted. I knew right away that the world would break its silence on Afghanistan and blame al-Qaeda on the attacks because of previous experience.
When the attacks on Tanzinia and Kenya happened, I was in hospital in Germany. They informed us that they wanted to see [Qasim] Fahim [who replaced Massoud as the resistance leader] urgently.
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This was the beginning of the contacts, before the US military operations began. Subsequently, I think the wrong system was put in place here. I have always had issue with this centralised system because it gives the authority to one person, which then translates to the authority of one tribe.
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Karzai, for example, did not emerge based on his merits, but rather through the recommendation of one tribe. Centralised power is problematic. Authority needs to be distributed, shared. There needs to be a prime minister that is accountable to the parliament. There is no question progress has been made in the past ten years. Before then, if a king died, his son would take power.
Now, we have a constitution that says the country's leader needs to be elected by the people. This is the result of long years of struggle. But if the international forces leave today, I think all this will falter within a week. Nothing has been institutionalised. People lack trust in these structures, because governments actions have made them question everything from elections to the parliament.