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This week I want to talk about what life must be like for the ordinary Afghan. Since I have been here I have had the opportunity to interact with many members in the Afghan military, as well as many locals who act as interpreters, and I have talked to them about the life of an average Afghan person. And to steal a comment from one of my colleagues, the average Afghan is an expert at survival.
For almost three decades the Afghan people have known nothing but war. From the Soviet invasion of the late 1970s to the current NATO-led operations, the country has not seen security or stability and each day is a fight for survival for many Afghans. During the Soviet invasion many atrocities were committed and millions of civilians were killed or persecuted for nothing more than their tribal affiliations or political beliefs. After the Soviet withdrawal, a power vacuum resulted in several years of civil war that saw many more innocent lives lost. Warring factions wreaked havoc both on each other and the civilian population to such an extent that much of the country was decimated. Finally, in the mid-1990s the Taliban took control and continued to persecute and kill in the name of Islam. They mainly targeted women and religious minorities but were ruthless in their quest to gain and hold power.
After so many years of war, the country is now almost devoid of basic infrastructure, the current political regime remains fragile and does not yet govern throughout the entire country. Crime and corruption are extensive and many are deprived of even the basic necessities. The Taliban continue to mount a campaign of intimidation preventing many Afghans from turning to national security forces for assistance. But yet, the people continue to survive.
And so this is the life of an ordinary Afghan. It is a struggle unlike anything that we will ever have to endure. Most live without many of the luxuries that we are accustomed to in western society and some still live without even the most basic of necessities such as adequate medical care or proper nutrition.
Currently progress is being made, but it is slow. International aid continues to pour in and slowly the nation is being rebuilt. It is a process that will take time, but is hampered by a lack of security. Many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) will not provide assistance without first being assured that their workers will be safe. Such a demonstration of the lack of security recently occurred when 23 South Korean hostages were kidnapped. For many of them, their fate rests with the Taliban.
Perhaps this week I can best sum up by referring to a conversation that I had earlier this week. I was speaking with one of the military lawyers that I mentor and we were discussing the future of the Afghan military and whether it would one day be able to function without international assistance. Our discussion could have easily applied not just to the Afghan military, but also to the future of the entire country. I commented that there was much work to be done but that with a little hope, one day I thought that they would be able to make it on their own. He lost all expression in his face and stared at me with great intent and replied, “Hope is all we have.”
I have received a couple of e-mails from people asking if I would mind if they forwarded my blog to some of their own friends. This blog was meant to be more than just a way to keep in touch with my family and friends and let them know how I am doing, it is also a way to inform the average Canadian about something that most people will never experience. It is a great way to teach others about something new. Therefore, I encourage you to forward this to as many people as you would like. There is no need to ask my permission.
I am still doing well and find myself more involved in my work as each day goes by. The more I work with the Afghans the more I want to help them. They are a likeable people and are very grateful for what the international community is doing for them. I send my best to everyone back in Canada and look forward to hearing from you. Please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or comments. And remember to support our troops overseas. I know that your support from home makes it so much easier for us to do what we were sent to do.