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The publicity that Afghanistan has gotten in the past few years, when it does receive some, having been overshadowed by the situation in Iraq or Iran’s defiance or the Arab world’s vilification of Israel, has largely been negative.  ThoughAfghanistanis still struggling in its infancy as a democracy, there has been significant progress in this landlocked country.

The nation held elections for its executive and legislative branches in the past two years and has confirmed an independent and moderate judiciary.  Its citizens, especially women, have more rights and freedoms than they could have imagined under the Taliban.  International aid is still pouring in at a steady stream despite the insurgency.  People, especially those living in the rural areas are being introduced to 21st century technology and expertise.  Villagers are being treated by doctors and dentists often for the first time and food and fuel is being distributed to combat the harsh Afghan winters.

At the same time, Afghanistan is being developed to stand on its own.  The Afghan Army and Police Force are undergoing training in newly built schools taught by experts brought in from around the world.  The infrastructure is becoming more cohesive with roads and bridges being built.  The economy is being revitalized with programs designed to encourage local businesses.  Afghans are slowly taking the lead in projects allowing them both to gain valuable experience and knowledge and demonstrate that they are in control of their own destiny.  All of these improvements also serve to prove that the U.S. and allied forces are in the country, not to colonize and change the people, but to improve their lives and assist them in any way possible.

Well aware of the challenges still confronting the nations, Afghans and their allies are tackling these problems with new solutions.  There are programs encouraging insurgents to disarm themselves and accept the new government while others aim to eliminate the troublesome poppy fields.  Meanwhile, Afghans rebuild when insurgents try to impede their progress.  The security situation, though still tenuous, has seen its fair share of progress as well.

Just five years after the ouster of the Taliban, Afghanistan has a fledgling democracy that has had its share of difficulties, but also has exhibited signs of a better future.  Each branch of government has been set up to fortify the foundation of a strong democracy.  President Hamid Karzai was elected by his people on October 9, 2004with 55.4% of the vote and sworn in two months later.[i]  Less than a year later, the lower house of the National Assembly was elected on September 18, 2005.  More than 2,800 candidates ran for 249 seats in the election, which saw a turnout of 50% despite threats by the Taliban.  Though it has been criticized for the type of members it had elected and for voting irregularities, the election was seen as a general success.  300 polling stations were discredited, but that was just a fraction of the total of 26,000 in the country.[ii]  The newly elected Parliament held its first session just three months later marking the first time in 35 years that an elected legislature met in the country.

On the judicial front, the newly appointed Supreme Court was sworn in on August 5th with nine moderate justices with no apparent conservative allegiances.  The Chief Justice is Abdul Salam Azimi, a moderate with law and education experience in the Middle East and the United States and a drafter of the national constitution.[iii]  As the three branches of government are being consolidated, the freedoms they are designed to safeguard are being enjoyed by the Afghan people.

Center for Security Policy

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