Six Weeks in Afghanistan

Posted by Thomas Niblock
October 11, 2007
Afghan Girls Soccer Tournament

Thomas Niblock is a Public Affairs Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Last week, I was invited to distribute soccer kits to a dozen Afghan girl’s soccer teams. You should have seen those girls pounding it out on the field against a mish-mash (and out classed) team of women representing the various ISAF military contingents. As I consider these first six weeks in Afghanistan, that experience helps frame my impressions. Six years ago there were virtually no girls in school in Afghanistan, and certainly none out building confidence on the soccer field! Today, there are about a million and a half female students, not yet even half of those who are eligible for school, but the numbers are significant and growing.

Probably everything negative you may have heard about Afghanistan is true, at least in part. Most Afghans you speak with have a litany of complaints about high prices, the lack of reliable electricity, bad and sometimes corrupt officials, and concerns about security. The newspapers (which reach only a few), and the much more widely available radio and TV programs are filled with criticisms and complaints of all kinds. Yet, several surveys have shown that over 95 percent of all Afghans don’t want to go back to the dark days of the Taliban and that they overwhelmingly reject the Taliban culture of violence and repression. I have become fond of telling people that it is not so much a question of the glass being half empty or half full here, but of there being at least some water in all of the glasses, be that security, development, or education.

For our part, I have been incredibly impressed with the quality of the men and women who have volunteered to come to Afghanistan to try to be a part of that better way forward. Days ago, one of those exceptional individuals, Tom Stefani, an employee of the U.S. Department of Agriculture assigned to our PRT (Provincial Reconstruction Team) in Ghazni, was killed when the vehicle he was in was hit by an IED. I didn’t know Tom personally, but those who did speak of his deep belief in the work he was doing. There is a spirit here that is uplifting. That’s where I am after six weeks in country.

Comments

Comments

Syrian P.
|
Syria
October 11, 2007

S in Syria writes:
"...Yet, several surveys have shown that over 95 percent of all Afghans don't want to go back to the dark days of the Taliban."

LOL, you do not need a single survey to know this fact. Specially asking the Soccer playing Afghan girls.

Peter
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California, USA
October 12, 2007

Peter in California writes:
Are you a quiet American?

zenpundit
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Illinois, USA
October 12, 2007

Zenpundit in Illinois writes:
"The newspapers (which reach only a few), and the much more widely available radio and TV programs are filled with criticisms and complaints of all kinds."

That is in itself, no mean achievment, considering the state of political freedoms in most of Afghanistan's neighbors.

Moreover, it is an exceptional level of public expression given the prior history of Afghanistan under the Taliban, the Mujahedeen coalition, Karmal-Najibullah, Taraki-Amin and Daoud regimes and even the distantly remembered royal government of Zahir Shah.

Is there any effort by State/USAID/CENTCOM to give moderate Afghan political groups an online presence that can compete with the cyberjihadi propaganda sites?

parfait
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Côte d'Ivoire
October 28, 2007

Parfait in Cote d'Ivoire writes:

j'aime

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