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I was told the Taliban was ‘closed’

Americans drove the Taliban from Kabul but not from the rest of the cities. U.S. troops have since been fighting all over the country and security remains bad. The fact that such a powerful army cannot end the war surprises me no end.
Image: Afghan school girls
Girls attend a class in Asheqan-O-Arifan school in Kabul in March, 2009. About 45 million books were supposed to arrive before classes started in March last year from the United Nations and American and Danish aid agencies, at a total cost of about $15.4 million. But there were delays even before a printing contract was signed.Rafiq Maqbool / AP file
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In the 1990s the situation in Afghanistan was terrifying, terrible and sad because the Mujahidin* wanted to take over, with groups from different races fighting for power. They killed thousands of innocents during that time. Fed up with the insecurity, many people left the country to save their families.

We were one of those families, and when I was four years old we started a new life in Peshawar, Pakistan.

My father is a patriotic person and, although he doesn’t have a lot of education, he is totally devoted to his country. So we were ecstatic after the Taliban government fell in 2001 and my father made up his mind to return to our homeland. I remember him talking about how we would have a good life once again.

"Afghanistan is peaceful now. We will have our own government and will be independent. We don’t have to live in foreign countries anymore," he said.

When I went back to Afghanistan, I was told the Taliban was 'closed.' It was not.

Americans drove the Taliban from Kabul but not from the rest of the cities. U.S. troops have since been fighting all over the country and security remains bad. The fact that such a powerful army cannot end the war surprises me no end.

They also kill our poor people, doctors, engineers and students, branding them as 'Taliban.'

America is running the government and creating more problems not only in Afghanistan but all over the world. I have worked with many Americans and most are nice – they truly want to help Afghans and I appreciate that – but their government doesn’t seem to want to stabilize my country.

Better for girls and women
On the positive side, things have gotten a bit better for women’s education – girls have more access to schools and universities. They are also free to work outside of their homes.

But outside the cities girls are not allowed to go to school, and some places people have burned girls' schools.

Other than in Kabul, 90 percent of people working in different organizations are men. Many men think girls and women don’t have the brains to run a company or an NGO.

As for the government, women have been given spaces in parliament or in ministries, but they cannot share their opinions and ideas. It seems to me that their comments are never valued.

And while many have access to schools and universities, they aren’t happy with the quality of the education.

Most the books are out of date. Schools do not have access to advanced technologies, like functional computers and high-speed internet. The system is based on memorizing every single line of a book without relating it to real life. And neither the students nor the teachers have any of real understanding of the lessons.

What has Karzai done?
As far as I can see, President Hamid Karzai hasn’t done much of anything good for his country. Afghans suffer from intense sexism, pervasive corruption, a polluted environment, unmitigated poverty, nepotism, poor governance and strained relations with our neighbors, among other problems.

Most parts of the country, especially rural areas, continue to be in the grip of a patriarchy. Male dominance is evident in schools, hospitals and almost all government offices.

Corruption is another big problem. Everyone, from the president to the security guard, is tainted. And despite promises to rein-in corruption, we see no end to this scourge.

Security remains a huge challenge despite billions of dollars spent in this area alone. Innocent people, including a large number of civilians, policemen and soldiers, continue to be killed by suicide attackers all the time.

As a consequence of the terrible insecurity, the economy is in tatters, investors are being scared away and the corrupt elements line their pockets.

Another upsetting fact of life is the widespread lack of basic facilities and a worsening employment situation.

But it would be unfair to blame the president for all the problems – one person can't rid the nation of all its woes – but what he can do is to reunite his people. So Karzai should work with us, hear our concerns and be accountable. This way, I believe, he will be successful in reforming the system, which is out of whack and corrupt to the core.

Afghanistan's people are intelligent and hospitable, but most of us do not have access to a good education. I wish we could stand unified, work together towards rebuilding our homeland and project it to the world in its real shape.

I feel very bad that many people in the West think Afghanistan is the main source of terrorism – I do not want people to think my country is behind all the problems facing the world today. As a proud Afghan I feel we should show the world the real Afghanistan and that we are not what they think of us.

*In this context, the mujahedeen were a group of Afghan militias who opposed the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s. When the Soviets pulled out, many fought each other for control of the country in the country’s civil war.

As told to F. Brinley Bruton