Building Boom In Afghanistan

Map of Afghanistan over man working in farmland AP / CBS

One year after the war against terrorism began, CBS News Correspondent Allen Pizzey reports for Sunday Morning on how Afghanistan is rebuilding.



"The kind of courage you see from the Afghans, the passion that you see from the Afghans that in itself is enough to say this country is going to be built," says Yassim Khosti.

Khosti knows about courage and commitment.

Jailed during the Russian occupation, he fled Afghanistan for the U.S. and worked his way to a comfortable retirement.

When the Taliban fell, he came back home to Kabul to take on the almost Sisyphean task of heading the agency to rebuild things like his boyhood school.

"These two windows were beautiful glass. I wish to see this place back at least exactly the same way it was, or better," says Khosti. "I don't know if I'm asking or hoping so much. I am looking forward to it."

A year after the bombing began, Afghanistan is in the throes of a building boom that has used up what little of the billions of dollars pledged that have actually arrived.

Villages virtually destroyed by the Taliban are being rebuilt as fast as aid agencies can hand out material.

But it's a race against the coming winter, according to UN refugee official Ragnhild Ek.

"I think it is a success story because we managed to, within a very short limit of time, provide shelter for a large number of people and we have to rush because winter is coming. They need shelter before the cold sets in," he says.

The refugees aren't the only ones getting ready for winter.
The U.S. military will not say how long they intend to be here, perhaps even they don't know.

But their stay is "temporary" according to spokesman Colonel Roger King of the U.S. Army.

"We're taking our tents and putting wooden sides underneath to give them a little more resistance to the wind and cold, allow them to be heated. There will be heating units that will be brought in, environmental control units," he says.

The environment, however, is dominated by an uncontrollable element.

Talcum powder-fine dust defies every attempt to make Bagram airbase habitable for more than half of the 8,000 American troops now in Afghanistan.
And even though every soldier carries a loaded weapon all the time, the operation here looks more and more like a garrison than a war.

There are something akin to sidewalks and lots of rules.

Breaking the 15-mile an hour speed limit or not wearing a seat belt as you crawl along can mean a traffic ticket.

The troops now do a six-month stint, so the most popular place on base is the PX, source of things young Americans miss most in this strange land.
How soon they go home will depend in large measure on how soon the new Afghan army is trained.

The all-volunteer force is being whipped into shape by U.S. Army Green Berets, but no one should expect a quick fix, according to Colonel Kevin McDonnell of the U.S. Special Forces.

"I think we're here until it's done. I think we're here until that security is provided, we're here until the Afghan government can provide for themselves the security that the international community is providing," he says.

The international community based here also provides a welcome injection of cash into the economy.

Prices on Chicken Street, Kabul's answer to a mall, have shot up, thanks to foreigners with money to spend and little idea of how to bargain.

The American soldiers who find their way here see the kids trying to scam them as proof they've done good things for Chicken Street.

"If we come back here next year, we will see a whole change in this place. If this peace stays, if we leave, I feel sorry for these people," a soldier says.

Historically, Afghans have resisted outsiders.

This time, the majority of the people seem happy with the role and presence of foreigners.

When a soldier was asked if he felt safe enough, he says yes. "But you still have to mind your Ps and Qs. You don't want to be too complacent."
Getting careless here can be fatal.

In spite of more than 4,000 foreign troops helping to provide security, bombs still occasionally shatter the night in Kabul, set off, the government says, by remnants of al-Qaeda and Taliban who are hiding among the population and holed up in remote provinces.

But the would-be destroyers are far outnumbered by those desperate to build. The artillery shell that serves as a class bell is a daily reminder of the alternative to studying.

The teachers have not been paid for two months, their only reward is the desire of the students to learn.

The hope here is that the U.S. and others who have pledged help will maintain the same level of dedication over the long haul.

"I hope they don't lose interest, and I think we got a lesson that is the lesson of the century, and I don't wish to be repeated again , anywhere," says Khosti.
  • Tatiana Morales

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