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June 24, 2009
In Afghanistan’s small towns, Canada rebuilds

An Afghani local works on the solar-powered streetlights built on the main road. Photo: Anup Kaphle

Anup Kaphle is embedded with British and Canadian forces in Afghanistan. He is reporting for Atlantic magazine, and is chronicling his experience on the “Dispatches from Afghanistan” blog. He describes local reconstruction efforts.

Listen to our webcast discussion on Canada’s role in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan’s fate would sound much like one of Aesop’s fables to someone who has been aloof from the horrors the country has been through in the last three decades. The country has been a playground for wars and left in a rubble every time it tries to pick up the shards from a gruesome conflict.

But as the United States prepares to ramp up its fight against the Taliban and al Qaeda, its neighbor to the north is utilizing their chance to stop kicking the doors and start focusing on rebuilding and challenging the local Afghans to rebuild their country, one community at a time.

A few of the most vibrant examples of Canada’s six stated priorities – mentoring security forces, basic services, humanitarian services, democratic development, political reconciliation and border security – can be witnessed in a small town of Dey-E-Bagh in Dand district, a few miles south of Kandahar.

Residents of this little town now have a few solar-paneled streetlights, new roads, small concrete buildings and a revamped irrigation system for their crops – all made possible by the Canadian dollars, technical assistance and major security enforcement. The plan is to provide as much of such assistance to the local communities so that they can rebuild themselves under the security of Canadian forces. That is hoped to push back the influx of Taliban into these towns from where they launch frequent attacks on NATO forces.

But the questions that quickly comes to mind are – What will the villagers do once the Canadians leave Afghanistan? How soon until the Taliban comes back into these villages, destroys the streetlights and irrigation system and executes the villagers for siding with their enemies? Whether these questions have been taken into consideration, no one knows. For now, it might be worth to notice the smiles on the faces of Deh-E-Bagh residents, happy about the new resources underway and menace from the Taliban far away.

The Canadians have plans to expand these kind of programs into broader communities in Kandahar province. And they have the support of the big guy in the province, Tooryalai Wesa, Kandahar’s governor since last December, and a man who himself spent over a decade in Canada.

At least in one town, it is encouraging to witness that the soldiers are no longer considering kicking doors and pointing guns at the local Afghans. However, given Taliban’s fanaticism for terror and the Canadian forces’ uncertainty to long-term commitment, Deh-E-Bagh could very likely end up being a new chapter in Aesop’s fables.

– Anup Kaphle

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