With less than a week to go before the Taliban mark the one-year anniversary of their reconquest of Afghanistan, one of the most honest and striking reports on the situation has to be from Secunder Kermani of the BBC.
His deeply reported piece acknowledges the tumult of the past year – tens of thousands of Afghans evacuated out of the country, most girls’ secondary schools closed, rising poverty. But it also acknowledges that rare blooming in Afghan soil of something unknown for more than four decades – a season of peace.
The country is “no longer engulfed in violence,” the report notes, and “previously rampant corruption has been significantly reduced”.
Alas, such even-handedness is not always a given with even the exceedingly professional, rigorously regulated giants of the international media often plumping for reflexive commentary and knee-jerk narratives. Sans nuance.
Consider, the BBC correspondent’s visit to the village of Padkhwab in Logar Province, south east of Kabul. When he visited, soon after the Taliban takeover in August 2021, he found the residents “eager to show us the signs of a war that until a few weeks ago had overshadowed their lives.” At the time, the villagers said it was difficult even to go to the shops. No longer. The security situation has improved and the BBC’s return visit to the village, just days ago, found some of the bullet holes in the buildings in the bazaar filled in and a new sense of wellbeing.
Wellbeing, in terms of physical security, not economic.
In Padkhwab village, says the report, items of daily use now cost so much more than before and jobs are in short supply. The villagers rely on remittances from overseas family.
It’s a mixed picture, one year on from the Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan, that’s for sure.
Psst: ‘The Pomegranate Peace’, the novel I wrote from my year living in the US Embassy complex in Kabul, Afghanistan is available here as an ebook and here as a paperback. Click here to read the Huffington Post review.