Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Other War

Six years after 9/11, it's hard to remember that it was Al Qaeda, supported by the Taliban in Afghanistan, that actually attacked us. Osama bin Laden has escaped, and no one seems to remember that we still have troops in Afghanistan.

And no one seems to be terribly concerned that the Taliban is making a comeback.

For those who have forgotten, I suggest reading this article about troops in Afghanistan who have discovered entire villages caught between foreign troops and Taliban terrorism, and the biggest losers in this conflict are the children.

KARAWADDIN, Afghanistan — The Afghan boy crouched near a wall in this remote village, where the Taliban’s strength has prevented the government from providing services. His eyes were coated by an opaque yellow sheath.

Sgt. Nick Graham, an American Army medic, approached. The villagers crowded around. They said the boy’s name was Hayatullah. He was 10 years old and developed the eye disease six years ago. “Can you help him?” a man asked.

Sergeant Graham examined the boy. He was blind. There was nothing the medic could do.

A second man appeared, pushing a wheelbarrow that held a hunched child with purplish lips and twisted feet, problems associated with severe congenital heart disease. Sergeant Graham listened to his heart. Without surgery, he said, this stunted boy would probably die.

A third man turned the corner from an alley, leading a girl, Baratbibi, by the arm. She was 7 years old. She turned her ruined eyes toward the afternoon sun without blinking. They were more heavily coated than Hayatullah’s. Sergeant Graham sighed.

“We could use an entire hospital here,” he said.


The Taliban exist openly here. To limit the influence of the government and prevent it from achieving even its modest development goals, the villagers and the Afghan and American authorities said, the insurgents have sacked schools, threatened teachers and students, scared off private contractors and sharply restricted medical care.

“The Taliban has made it abundantly clear that no outside doctors, no outside medical help, can work in this district,” Captain DeMure said.

With the mess in Iraq, and Bush's new posturing on Iran, Washington has turned its back on Afghanistan, a country ravaged by war time and time again. Who knows if it will ever recover.

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