Foreign Dispatch: Kabul – Then & Now

FOX News Radio's Alastair Wanklyn went to Afghanistan after 9/11.  He returned to see the changes:

Don't trust first impressions. Kabul has freshly paved roads; it has shiny tin garbage bins with posters explaining their use.  There's a construction boom and demand for managers.  "Ten years ago if you spoke English you could get a good job. Now you need a university degree too," says businessman Mustafa Ozair.

More good news: thousands of girls denied schooling under the Taliban now attend class daily.  But this is Kabul, a stable city that has received huge sums of foreign money.  Public dumpsters are low priority in a nation where only half the population has access to running water, and just a quarter can read and write.

That's a problem for those screening recruits forAfghanistan's Army and Police.  "Nine out of ten don't even know their numbers, their letters," says U.S. General William Caldwell, who oversees training for the security services.  So NATO has hired three thousand Afghan trainers to teach recruits how to read.

But American military advisors admit other problems too: frequent desertions from the Army, and difficulty finding natural leaders.  As the Police are so ill-disciplined it's little better than a fragmented militia says New York-based Human Rights Watch.  The group cites harassment of residents and thefts from their homes during police raids.

Then there's the insurgency. A hundred thousand American troops are currently inAfghanistan.  "A lot of people harp on, we shouldn't be there, take care of your own," says Sergeant Kevin Ordonez, from New York.  "But with power comes responsibility. And if we don't step up, who will?"  Ordonez is currently serving close to Afghanistan's border with Pakistan.

Al Qaeda is down, but the Taliban is not.  Current policy is to punch the Taliban to force it into talks.  But some argue the danger with bombing and night raids is that you create recruits for the insurgency.  And the risk with decapitating the Taliban is that when at last it comes to the table it's unclear if those you're speaking to still control the movement.

Present plans are to have U.S. combat troops depart Afghanistan within three years, leaving Afghanistan with a 400,000-strong Army and Police.  There's a problem with such a large security force.  "It could be of a size and professionalism that the Afghan state wouldn't be in a position to support," says Dana Allin of the International Institute of Strategic Studies in London.  So Afghanistan would likely need to remain a ward of the United States in years ahead.  America has already spent about half a trillion dollars on this country. How much more tax dollars it is prepared to spend?

The thought of a U.S scale-back scares Mustafa Ozair.  "Most probably the Taliban would come back. The police, the army are not equipped to oppose them. So I think the country would go back to where it started."

As America prepared to honor those killed 10 years after the 9/11 terror attacks, few in Afghanistan realized the importance of the day.

FOX News Radio's Alastair Wanklyn spent the 9/11 weekend in Kabul:

Audio clip: