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Rebuilding Afghanistan Remains Challenging Five Years After Invasion

Last week, peacekeeping duties in Afghanistan were officially handed over to NATO troops, nearly five years after the United States invaded the country and ousted the Taliban. Washington Post reporter Pamela Constable discusses the progress and setbacks in rebuilding Afghanistan.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    Last week, peacekeeping duties in Afghanistan were officially handed over to 32,000 NATO troops, but things are not very peaceful. Among other things, the Taliban, once thought to be vanquished, is alive and fighting.

    Pamela Constable of the Washington Post has been covering the conflict in Afghanistan for more than a decade. She joins us now for an update on the situation on the ground.

    Welcome, Pam.

  • PAMELA CONSTABLE, Reporter, Washington Post:

    Thank you.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Start by talking about the Taliban. How much are they back?

  • PAMELA CONSTABLE:

    They're very back. In certain parts of the country, the southern four provinces, they are putting up a very tough fight, tougher than I think either the American or the NATO commanders expected.

    We don't know how many there are. Certainly, they're in the many hundreds, possibly even the thousands. They seem to be quite well-equipped and armed. And the question, of course, is: Where are they getting all that money and those weapons?

    They started out doing a lot of hit-and-run kind of sabotage, ambushes. Now they are really trying to take and hold territory, as well as having introduced this horrific method of suicide bombings. There have now been dozens of them across the country.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Now, that's something that didn't exist before?

  • PAMELA CONSTABLE:

    No, this is something very new for Afghanistan. In the previous conflicts, even including the Taliban, the conflict that overthrew the Taliban in 2001, this was unheard of. And that's why many Afghans say, "Oh, it couldn't be Afghans doing this." Well, we don't really know who's doing it.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    How extensive is their control?

  • PAMELA CONSTABLE:

    The Taliban?

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Yes.

  • PAMELA CONSTABLE:

    They don't really control territory, but they have the power to harass and do military assaults in fairly large areas of the country.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    So when we say "Taliban," we're not thinking about it in the way that we thought about it when the war began five years. The Taliban then controlled the government; it ran the country.

  • PAMELA CONSTABLE:

    That's right.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    That's not what we're talking about.

  • PAMELA CONSTABLE:

    No. This is a renegade force, which, as you said in your introduction, everyone thought was vanquished a long time ago. But for the past year, they've been rebuilding their forces, they've been occupying the void left by inadequate government in many remote parts of the country, rebuilding their forces, and started coming back very strongly in a number of areas.

    They've killed many, many people, both with suicide bombs and regular military assaults. And the situation is really very difficult.

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