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Turning off the lights in Afghanistan

January 14th, 2013
02:07 PM ET

By Lucky Gold, CNN

Just as President Obama considers accelerating the exit of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, the prospects for peace and prosperity there may be dimming – literally.

The Kajaki Dam on the Helmand River symbolizes all that has gone right and wrong in Afghanistan.

It was built by American contractors in the 1950s, and survived both the Soviet invasion and Taliban rule after that.

Since the beginning of this latest Afghan war, the U.S. has committed hundreds of millions of dollars to upgrade hydro-electric generators in order to bring electricity to three hundred thousand people and bolster agriculture in the region.

At an even greater cost, the U.S. and NATO have committed the lives of coalition forces to protect the workers from insurgents bent on killing them and destroying the projects.

Afghans have vowed that the work will go on, but the price – both in blood and treasure – only keeps rising. With the United States’ imminent withdrawal, the dam could become vulnerable again.

Now, it seems that unless Afghans are willing to pay for it with money and manpower, the lights – and the hopes of a people – will be extinguished.

READ MORE: Karzai confident he can get U.S. troops immunity

Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour • Imagine a World
soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. Ron Reddick

    After living and working in AF for 3 plus years (2007 -2010) I see it reverting past what once was. When I arrived Kabul had limited electricity, ahh, the drone of the Genset. But I could drive around Kabul, Wardak, and the Panshir with no issues. Even Kandahar was semi safe. The Shops catering to the expats, the pool at Unica, even Sizzlin Steak house are now things of the past. In my few visits back in country over the following 2 years it is not once as it was, nor do I see it getting any better. The commitment is not there to finish the work of ISAF, only the will to extract as much money from ISAF and the NGO's to support the AF mansions in Dubai is the goal. It is a sad day, as the average Afghani just wants it all to end, to be normal, and I fear it never will be that again. A wonderful country, a friendly people for the most part, proud, and surrounded by conflict and politics, be it ISI, the world, or tribal factions, it is all working to tear Afghanistan apart once again

    January 14, 2013 at 6:48 pm | Reply
  2. thegobetweengoat

    Ron, your take is interesting as you have been here far longer than me. I have seen instability (like the explosion a couple hours ago for example), but there are still expat establishments popping up, as well as a healthy underground art and music scene led by the Afghan youth (not Afghani – that is the money). It will be interesting to see what happens as the country transitions, but do not give up hope quite yet. I know a lof of nationals who have not. It rests in the politics more than anything else. It is a beautiful country, in parts you would never know there was conflict.

    January 16, 2013 at 6:00 am | Reply
  3. Local Militia

    The Afghans contrary to popular belief are not peaceful people nor do they want such a dream. I'm not bashing upon their culture or their way of life. I have studied and interacted with thousands of Afghans in the last several years. And with that I can tell you with certainty they do not want peace and are not known for it either. Iv talked to elders who grew up during the Shah's reign and even they told me the king's hold outside of Kabul was precarious at best. He had to rely heavily upon the powerful warlords/noblemen in each province. The notoriety of warlords and militias is as old in Afghanistan as the country itself. For us it is a recent phenomenon. For them its their way of life. It is because of this they revert back so quickly to nepotism. Afghans have never ever liked a strong central government in their entire history regardless of foreign intervention. They prefer their own militias and their own kings for their own provinces. Having seen their brutality first hand both by the insurgents and the locals they most certainly are not a 'peaceful' peoples. Far from it. One of their primary languages, Pashto, alone has 15 different words describing revenge. Half their culture is dedicated towards this concept. The end result is physical conflict. not peace. Last week we had a Shura. A few of their elders spoke to me and said: "when we die our legacy will be war as it was before me and long after my grandson". I asked: " don't you want peace?". He says: "Conflict makes you strong and war will make you an empire." That pretty much summons up their sentiments. And it will stay that way as the last 500 years have dictated it will be.

    January 23, 2013 at 10:33 am | Reply

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