afghanistan kids
Rebuilding Afghanistan
By Charlie Keenan

Young children in Khewa must hold class outdoors until their school can be rebuilt. Many children in Afghanistan are going to school for the first time. (Photo: Cassandra Nelson)
Imagine a country about the size of Texas, but without adequate hospitals, schools, sewers, telephone lines, and running water. Imagine roads pockmarked with potholes and bombed-out bridges. Imagine a place where 8 to 10 women can't read. It's not an imaginary place. It's Afghanistan.

After 23 years of war, Afghanistan has been reduced to rubble. The country is now turning to Washington and the international community to begin rebuilding.

"We're starting from zero in every sector," said Adib Farhadi, director of economic affairs in Afghanistan.

U.S. Efforts

In September 2003, the U.S. approved a $1.2 billion aid package for Afghanistan in an effort to jump-start the lagging reconstruction efforts. The U.S. hopes to improve security conditions by using the money to train and support a new national army and police force. The aid package will also be used to improve roads, schools, and health clinics—as well as to generate jobs and government projects.

Lack of Security

Security is the most important factor to the future of Afghanistan, and it has been a growing concern in the country. Shortly after the Taliban, an extremely strict religious government, lost power in November 2001, a security force was created to keep the capital safe. But no forces were assigned to patrol the lands outside the capital. Outside Kabul, warlords ruled, and there was little safety.

Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai wants security forces beyond the capital, but can't find the money or the manpower. America has around 140,000 troops in Iraq and will not send more to Afghanistan.

Recently, two schools were burned and flyers warned people not to work with aid organizations. To help Afghanistan establish peace, a new group stepped in: the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The organization formed after World War II to protect Europe from the Soviet Union, but now tries to help peace take hold in conflicted areas around the world.