06 February 2010

Minnie gone, but optimism endures in Kabul

I quit looking for Skinny Minnie, the emaciated dog I befriended in Kabul. I realized that yesterday morning after running through in the snow, the mud and the goo on the new campus site. I looked for her very deliberately the first time I ran there after returning to Kabul about two weeks ago. I looked a little less each time thereafter; yesterday I didn’t even think about Minnie until I was leaving property.

There is a new pair of relatively plump and lively puppies, maybe four months old, and I wonder how long before their cuteness fades and they become just two more animals scrounging out a life, competing over garbage, avoiding harassment by humans, looking for shelter, and becoming bolder, more feral when the sun sets. So much for the comforts of a dog’s life.

Most of the people I talk to in Kabul accept that the security situation in Afghanistan is worsening while the Taliban is gaining power. Yet the Afghans still manage to see signs of progress. Several said they were impressed with the recent performance of the Afghan security forces, which responded to the suicide attacks in Kabul last month with only minimal support from western military forces. They point to several new businesses in Kabul, an island of relative prosperity compared to much of the rest of the country, particularly in south and east.

They are ambivalent about President Hamid Karzai’s attempts to bring moderate elements of the Taliban to the negotiating table. What kinds of compromises will that require? Rolling back a commitment towards some semblance of representative democracy? Abandoning the momentum toward meaning women’s rights? The Afghan Taliban, for its part, on Sunday rejected Karzai’s proposal as “futile” and “farcical,” reminded him that their influence is rising, and restated their goal of creating an Islamic state, reports Reuters.

Meanwhile, the university where I work has finally has some administrative leadership in place who are trying do something besides putting a collective finger in the bursting dike. They have ambitious plans for the short-term future, which includes doubling the faculty and students by the fall semester. Some of my colleagues claim their plans are unrealistic, however, I am relieved to see someone looking to the future instead of pissing and moaning about the sorry state of the present and doing nothing to improve matters.

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