Monday, October 09, 2006

Development, Kabul and my not-yet broken heart

I wrote this a few weeks ago, while still in Kabul. I didn't post it because I was scared but sometimes you just have to speak out.

I’m taking advantage of my relative anonymity to rant and rave:

It’s getting worse here, as I’ve been saying. Allegedly, a suicide bomber was caught outside of my office (though, not in the news). Everyone, and I mean everyone, is worried. When you’re here though, it usually consists of,

Did you hear about-?
Yeah, that’s too bad.
I wish Karzai would do something.
That’s the police; you know they’re all thieves.
Well, Karzai’s brother down south is a thief, why would he do anything to stop the thieves?
It’s the Americans, the Americans are letting this happen.
They’ve got to have a deal going with his brother.

The fact that I’ve heard this conversation from internationals working for international organizations (working for U.S. organizations), local Afghans, and diaspora Afghans demonstrates the pervasiveness of this theory. And outright frustration.

There is so much corruption here. I think that everyone would be content with the current (lack of) development in Kabul, let alone in Afghanistan – if there was less nepotism, cronyism and corruption. Now, security in Kabul is getting worse and we’re all just waiting for a better alternative.

Where’s the political will to reform? I just don’t know. President Karzai was Shinwari’s (former Supreme Court Justice) main supporter. I don’t know why, but Parliament got rid of him – perhaps he didn’t have the political base in Parliament? Either way, it was a good thing.

But then, in President Karzai’s defense, who does he have to support him? The U.S. made a deal with these warlords in exchange for them (and not U.S. troops) securing the countryside, which made the same old players (that ruined Afghanistan after the Russians pulled out) gain strength. The warlords or Qomandants have no interest in more rule of law or democracy. They want it just peaceful enough so they can continue running their fiefdom. But not enough so they’ll be prosecuted for their work. That all ends up with President Karzai having to rule by consensus.

And then the Iraq war started. Stretching our (U.S.’) resources even more.

And don’t get me started on the U.S. and development (just read The Road to Hell by Maren). I know, there are plenty of great projects but there is no cohesiveness – no overall plan to fix up this country and a lot of the money goes into the pockets of over-priced consultancy firms or corrupt officials.

There are exceptions to this, we have underpaid, non-corrupt officials and internationals who work so hard and so sincerely that it takes my breath away. But damn, it’s not everyone and it’s slow going. So, my heart is strained but not yet broken.

I keep getting requests to, “Will you at least consider coming back to the U.S. to live?” No, I won’t, not yet. I do have a vacation planned (hey there, waffle house!) but not to move back. This is where I’m supposed to be, Inshallah. It’s hard, frustrating and heartbreaking – but what am I going to do there? I’ll be longing to be in Kabul. At least I can convince myself that I’m doing something to help, if only to bear witness. But I don’t know.


sophia said...

Wow...that was an amazing entry. You are an inspiration to us all...

chaoyang said...

beautifully written... "my heart is strained, but not yet broken"

I am sorry for your frustrations, but admire your umph, your willingness to do something about it. But if you chose another path, or if you chose to continue this path from elsewhere or in a different way, I would still be proud of you.

something has to be done, yes. and may you find all the different ways of doing it, then chose the best for you.

homeinkabul said...

Sophia: Thank you. I certainly don't feel like an inspiration but it's nice of you to say that.

C: Thank you for your support. You always have a knack of saying what I need to hear. I miss you but am always thankful for your friendship.