By October 2001, 24 years of poverty and civil war had eroded the physical infrastructure and demoralized the people of Afghanistan. The civil war that brought the Taliban to power, and the subsequent strict rule by the regime, worsened life for most Afghans. More than 4 million Afghans abandoned their homes for refugee camps in neighboring countries. The Taliban gave safe harbor to Osama Bin Ladan and the al Qaeda network, turning Afghanistan into a haven for terrorists. While the Taliban and al Qaeda officials lived well and enjoyed impunity, average Afghans faced repression and poverty.
That was then. Today, lives are better and hope is real. America and our coalition partners have made a major difference in just one year.
Fear of Starvation
International relief organizations feared that hundreds of thousands of Afghans might starve during the winter.
Famine was averted during the winter of 2001. As of June 2002, 575,000 metric tons of food were delivered to Afghanistan, feeding over 9.8 million people.
Out of a population of 26.8 million, more than 3.5 million Afghans were in refugee camps outside the country and over 1.3 million were internally displaced.
2 million refugees have returned to Afghanistan, and approximately 630,000 internally displaced persons returned to their homes.
Schooling for girls over the age of 8 was banned. Many girls had not been in school for six years. 7,800 women teachers, or 74 percent of the total, were prohibited from teaching, leaving most girls and 148,000 boys without schooling. Kabul University was closed.
Over 3 million children have returned to school. Afghan girls comprise 30 percent of the total student population. Eight million new textbooks, nearly 2 million supplementary teaching materials, supplies, and 6,000 temporary classrooms accommodate the sudden surge of schoolchildren. The University reopened in Spring 2002.
Freedom of religion, severely restricted due to the absence of a constitution and the ongoing civil war, was determined primarily by the unofficial, unwritten, and evolving policies of the Taliban.
Religious freedom restored. Legal basis for religious freedom is found in the Bonn Agreement and the 1964 Constitution, which says "non-Muslim citizens shall be free to perform their rituals within the limits determined by laws for public decency and public peace."
The Taliban issued edicts prohibiting or severely restricting the most ordinary activities, such as listening to music, publishing, shaving, kite flying, and dancing. The government would exact severe punishments for those caught engaging in these activities.
Afghans have elected a representative interim government through a representative Loya Jirga process. Newspapers, radio, and TV have been reborn. Individual and political freedoms are being reestablished.
Although 40 percent of Afghanistans doctors are women, the Taliban banned most female doctors from practicing medicine. Male doctors were prohibited from treating women.
Women doctors have returned to work, and male doctors may treat women once again. Many medical professionals have returned from exile.