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Life after 9.11 is a NewsHour Extra special report on life in the U.S. immediately after the attacks.
Rebuilding Afghanistan Posted: 09.11.02
A year ago, most Americans knew Afghanistan only as a country where a repressive government was destroying cultural treasures like centuries-old Buddha statues. Now that the ruling Taliban has been removed by the U.S. war on terror, Afghans are trying to rebuild their roads, their schools and their identity.
After more than two decades of war, the people of Afghanistan have vowed to reconstruct their country.
Afghanistan's leaders and nations around the world have pledged to help reconstruct not only the missing and damaged physical structures, but also many historical and cultural icons that were destroyed in past years.
Several countries, including the U.S., have pledged financial support to help in the rebuilding effort. A total of $4.5 billion in aid has been distributed to the country thus far. But there is much to be done and the United Nations estimates Afghanistan will need $15 billion in aid over the next ten years.
Most of the roads and buildings in Afghanistan were demolished during the wars of the past two decades. First came a Soviet invasion; then Afghan ethnic and religious factions, with the help of the United States, drove the Soviets out, but fought each other for the next decade. (Click here for a historical timeline of Afghanistan.)
Finally the war on terrorism began, ousting the Taliban, but also destroying hundreds of schools and thousands of homes.
A number of humanitarian organizations have vowed to provide aid to help redevelop the country. One of those groups is the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), an independent government agency that provides foreign assistance and humanitarian aid.
USAID says it will give out grants totaling $5.7 million to help with the construction of new roads, schools, clinics and markets. The agency says it will employ local Afghans to build the country's roads, hoping to spark economic recovery.
Road reconstruction and the restoration of travel and trade is vital to rehabilitating the country's economy. When a major supply route called the Salang Tunnel, located between the capital city Kabul and Mazar e-Sharif, was finally reopened this year, it reduced a 14-hour trip between the cities to just four hours.
USAID has also promised to rehabilitate three hospitals and two universities. Construction is just beginning on more than 600 public schools that have been empty for years.
During the Taliban's reign, Islamic fundamentalists banned all forms of cultural expression. Leaders forbade all forms of music and paintings and books were burned.
In 1993, the Taliban bombed the Kabul Museum, destroying centuries-old sculptures and paintings. Officials hope to reopen the museum, as well as the Kabul Theater, next year.
And on Kharabat Street, an ancient avenue in Kabul where Afghans once went to hear traditional music, musicians and artists are picking through the rubble, trying to regroup and restore the cultural vitality of their neighborhood.
To help reestablish cultural order, the new Afghan President Hamid Karzai created a high-level job in his official cabinet for a Minister of Culture.
According to USAID, nearly half of Afghanistan's 27 million people live in poverty, 50 percent are unemployed, and 70 percent are illiterate.
The country's struggle for structural and cultural restoration remains threatened by continued violence, including a recent assassination attempt on President Karzai's life.
Yet within one year, there is renewed hope that the country will be able to reclaim its history and rebuild its shattered infrastructure.
President Karzai has said that ultimately he wants to stabilize his country so that it can stand on its own feet.
"We will not stop," Karzai said, "and if we stop, we will be bringing back these bad people to Afghanistan -- so we should go on, we should begin -- today -- begin tomorrow, and we should go on for a number of years."
-- By Raven Tyler, NewsHour Extra
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