A decade of war costing thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars has left Afghanistan with a corrupt government, a widely criticised Western troop presence and only dim prospects for peace.
The United States and Britain launched an air assault on October 7, 2001, less than a month after the 9/11 attacks, followed quickly by a ground invasion aiming to topple the Taliban and destroy Al-Qaeda safe havens.
Initially, there was euphoria among many Afghans oppressed by the Taliban’s brutal regime, which banned girls from going to school and women from working outside the home as well as music and most sports for all.
A decade on, high-rise buildings, shopping centres and modern technology have transformed parts of Kabul, but many Afghans now see the 140,000 foreign troops under US command as occupiers not liberators.
President Hamid Karzai, once hailed in Western capitals, has become one of the international community?s harshest critics, particularly over civilian casualties, and his government is seen as corrupt and weak.
When the Taliban were ousted, they fled, badly weakened, to Pakistan and violence was low for several years. But they rebuilt and 10 years later, 2011 is on track to be the deadliest year yet for civilians in Afghanistan.
Efforts to broker peace with the Taliban had made scant progress even before Karzai’s peace envoy Burhanuddin Rabbani was assassinated last month, fanning ethnic tensions and threatening to further weaken the president?s government.
With US-led foreign combat troops due to leave in 2014, some experts fear the country is sliding back towards the kind of civil war that killed and displaced thousands of people in 1992-96.
Sad! 10 years of US Military and Afghan civilians’ lives lost. Maybe we should not have even been in that country. Russians were in Afghanistan 10 years and then just picked up and left!