At a center in Kabul for children affected by violence, a mother of one of the children cut through the niceties of the meeting—and the tradition of Afghan women being self-effacing—by declaring bitterly, “We hate this country and want to leave. There are no jobs here.” That angry declaration came amid growing concerns about Afghanistan’s insecurity and inadequate infrastructure.
When I visited Kabul in late 2007 I saw signs of progress over what I saw in 2002. Kabul’s streets were livelier and markets fuller. Two segments of the economy seemed to be booming: the construction industry and the wedding industry (enormous buildings are going up in the center of Kabul to provide space for that beloved Afghan institution, the wedding banquet). It was a surprise to find Kabul with a shopping center equipped with a cash machine that, tellingly, dispenses both Afghan and U.S. currencies.
Chris Herlinger, former senior writer for Church World Service, is a contributing writer for National Catholic Reporter’s Global Sisters Report. He is the coauthor, with Paul Jeffrey, of books on Haiti and Darfur, published by Seabury. A third book, Food Fight: Struggling for Justice in a Hungry World, has just been released.