Good News: Kabul Is Booming

by Joshua Foust on 7/16/2009 · 2 comments

ISAF put together a helpful video about the progress Kabul has made since 2001. While under the Taliban there were maybe a dozen phone lines in or out of the city, now there is a vast cellular phone network. There are enormous construction projects all over the place, including a standard-issue gaudy mall, and even plans for ridiculous impossible new neighborhoods.

Of course, this being an ISAF propaganda video, we must tempter it with a bit of reality. Only Kabul is booming—most other parts of the country, despite some construction projects, are not nearly as connected, powered, or safe (yes, safe). While it’s true half of Kabul has electricity 24 hours a day thanks to a brand new transmission line droped from Uzbekistan, the other 93% of the country still must scratch and scramble for a few hours of juice per day. Even so, the widespread use of micro-hydro plants is a great idea, and one many Afghans asked me to provide for them when I was there (obviously I couldn’t, but the PRTs were swamped with requests).

Similarly, while there are now cars a-plenty, the status of the roads remains miserable. But there are cars, fuel is available, and even though the cars are unsafe and exported there because they fail basic safety and maintenance tests in their home countries, they are a booming industry.

So while the rest of the country still faces enormous problems of infrastructure, development, security, and governance, Kabul seems to be doing really well for itself. Which is nice—a spot of mostly good news amidst all the doom and gloom. But the vast majority of all aid money goes to Kabul and either doesn’t leave, or it goes right back to the donating country through high expat salaries. With so much money concentrated on a relatively small area, it’s no surprise that there’s been remarkable progress.


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This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from Registan.net. His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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{ 2 comments }

David M July 16, 2009 at 10:19 am

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 07/16/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

Tina July 16, 2009 at 1:42 pm

a little good news for kids:

Kabul theatre aims to take tragedy back from reality

Afghanistan has witnessed the return of children’s theatre to Kabul after an enforced cessation of two decades. The play, Dragon Mountain, carries a meaning beyond the legend it recalls. This is an Afghan story from an ancient past, tinged with hope for an emerging future.

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