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Afghanistan: A Fragile Peace (2004)

 

In early 2002, northern Afghanistan was a shell-shocked land. Cliff Orloff and Olga Shalygin visited Mazar-I-Sharif just after the Taliban had been defeated.

 

They returned in the spring of 2004 to see how conditions had changed, with a new constitution and an upcoming election promising democracy and lasting peace. They were able to find key characters from their 2002 documentary.

 

By comparison with conditions two years earlier, the found strong confidence in the new central government currency and a booming economy fed by two primary forces. The first, representing almost 50% of the country’s GNP, is fueled by a huge increase in the opium trade representing three-fourths of the world’s supply of heroin. The second, representing about 40% of the GNP, is massive foreign aid supplied through a true international effort.

 

Among ordinary Afghans they found virtually universal hope for peace and an end to the factional conflicts…. and great expectation that this will be delivered through an election process hampered by lack of security and lack of any democratic tradition… and they document the reality of what happens to Afghans exercising new democratic rights without secret ballots and government protection.

 

As a result of the failures of the government to enforce the disarmament program and to develop a credible Afghan National Army, warlord commanders still control the countryside, where almost 80% of Afghans live. Their powerful bosses also control most of the cities. The weak central government survives only by keeping warlords in check through political deals and turning a blind eye to the opium trade, on which the country’s economic development is now based.