Afghanistan is more stable than for decades—but we'll have to pay to keep it that wayby David Loyn / February 19, 2015 / Leave a comment
Ask any student at Kabul University if the west lost the war in Afghanistan, and you will get an emphatic answer—No. Given an opportunity, they have grabbed it—they are the first generation for 30 years to have aspirations beyond struggle, death and martyrdom.
The university is humming with new life, interest and hope. Like other developing countries, Afghanistan’s demography is weighted towards the young, and they are impatient for change. In this supposedly traditional society, male and female students mix in a relaxed way (without any of the strictures demanded by Islamist groups in some universities in the United Kingdom). In a media studies class, 20-year-old Massouda spoke of her hopes for the future, and of how much had already changed. “Life for women is now very different,” she said.
Massouda’s family did not return from a refugee camp in Pakistan until three years after the Taliban left, when they could be sure that things really had changed. Her mother cleans houses and takes in laundry, but in an example of the social mobility possible in a country rapidly urbanising as it moves from war to peace, Massouda owes her education and life chances to the western aid programmes that have begun to transform Afghan schools. Independent media are another success: already Massouda works part time for a news agency and says she will be able to choose who to marry and choose to continue working. These are new freedoms for an Afghan woman.
On every patch of open ground young men play football and cricket in enormous, sprawling games in which it is hard to tell where one sport ends and the other begins. The Afghan cricket team is a source of huge national pleasure and pride. Aided by two English coaches, Afghanistan has fought its way up into the sport’s international elite, competing at the 2015 World Cup. And traditional pursuits banned by the Taliban are also back with an exuberance all of their own. On Thursdays and Fridays throughout the winter, horsemen compete on a plain north of Kabul in games of buzkashi—the most macho sport in the world, which involves fighting for possession of a calf’s…