By Tim Wimborne
It’s now widely accepted that the latest war in Afghanistan has not gone well. As an intermittent visitor here over the past 10 years, several differences are visible to my western eyes, but I keep realising how much there still is in common with the Kabul of a decade ago.
I had not long been on staff at Reuters when I was given my first assignment in Afghanistan. That was the spring of 2004. Back then, there were perhaps more people of foot in the city and fewer cars. There were certainly not as many cell phones and Internet cafes as there are today.
Now, the country’s presidential election, which is supposed to mark the first democratic power-transfer in Afghanistan’s history, is just a few days away and heightened security ahead of the vote makes a big difference to the way Kabul looks. Security was also an issue in 2004, but the threat of violence was much less great, and I could travel outside the city without too much concern.
But other things haven’t changed. Although there’s more barbed wire and a 3G service has become available, overall infrastructure problems don’t appear to have reduced. As Kabul’s population has boomed, the roads and water supply don’t seem to have advanced at all.
Speaking to locals this week, they talk of the same problems they did back then too: corruption, lack of quality healthcare, and problems finding good schools and jobs for their children. Many still wish to emigrate to Western countries.