Friday, December 30, 2011

December 30 1750

Sign posted over the toilet at the flight terminal, only in Afghanistan. I end this year in Kabul, hopefully, it will be quiet and uneventful. In a year marked by ups and downs, I feel like there were more ups than downs. Expansion of drone attacks into Pakistan seem to be successful in eliminating insurgents before they cross over, or preventing their return. US intelligence identified the Haqqani network as responsible for some of the spectacular attacks in public areas as well as the targeted assassination of public figures. These attacks meant to frighten the citizenry seems to have  negatively affected the public's impression (finally) of insurgents, other groups, including the Taliban have distanced themselves from attacks on Afghans.
        Hundreds of NATO and US soldiers have died this year, ten times that many insurgents. Unfortunately there were many innocent Afghan lives lost, 16 killed last week by suicide bomber after attending funeral services. dozens more injured. On the positive side, Karzai is still alive, I am afraid much hope depends on his leadership and survival.
        After years of training, Afghan troops have, in some cases, fought back when under attack. That was hardly the case one year ago and it feels like their rate of success is improving. Small villages that lived under Taliban rule have found freedom and with the help of the US armed forces, now have irrigation, bridges, schools and hope. The articles are run weekly in Stars and Stripes and are uplifting. Day by day we are improving the lives of regular people. The Kabul Stadium was re-opened last week to much fanfare, another reason for hope and a radical departure from the Taliban's use as a showcase for public executions.  Two weeks ago the country's first railway opened, the first ever piece to the longest missing link in Asian trade. Women's rights are being discussed with the central government, unthought of  two years ago. All this in a country where women are seen as property and girls schools sought out and burned by the previous regime. The US has done much wrong in Afghanistan, most notably, pulling out after the start of the Iraq war. If no one else notices, what I see is resolve. Resolve to stay until the mission is accomplished and we make up for walking away 8 years ago, leaving villages to be slaughtered by Taliban. Atonement perhaps.

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