Gul Agha (right) with Hamid Karzai's brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, in Kandahar. One week later, an attempt was made on Hamid Karzai's life. (Photo: Cassandra Nelson)
Nearly two years have passed since the U.S. led a military force to attack Afghanistan and help replace its harsh government. Despite new leaders and efforts to rebuild, Afghans still do not live in peace.
Bombs still explode near villages, and the nation's Vice President was assassinated. President Hamid Karzai was the target of another killer.
"Afghanistan is a nation made of the bits and pieces no one else wanted," said Mohammad Abdul, who helped rebuild the historic mosque in his city, Kandahar. "For this reason, it will always be difficult to have real peace here."
One of the obstacles to peace is that the people of Afghanistan are split into numerous tribes and ethnic groups with different languages, cultures, and leaders. Without a strong government, many tribes and groups have seized power in their area.
Another obstacle is the land itself. Afghanistan is a rocky and mountainous country with few good roads. In the winter, even these few roads are unpassable. Afghanistan also has no unified communication system, aside from a few phones, which very few Afghans own.
At the same time, the U.S. and the international community is spending billions of dollars and sending relief workers into the war-torn country to piece it back together. Somebody has to help: In 2002, more than 1.5 million refugees returned home to Afghanistan. They must build houses, find food and water, and remake their lives. Jobs are scarce. Farmers plant crops in dry soil, and herders have lost most of their livestock.
"We want peace," said Mohammad Abdul, taking a break from repainting the mosque. "We are weary of war. But we need help. We need assistance in rebuilding our country and keeping security. If the United States leaves us, this will all unravel. If Karzai is killed, who will take over? It will mean more war."