Afghanistan compared to earlier feels like a heartbreaking contrast today.
The tranquil time and innocent faces have turned into devastation and eyes filled with horror.
The progressive King Amanullah Khan planned to design Afghanistan like the cities he visited in Europe. He was succeeded in 1933 by Zahir Shah. He brought stability, peace, and progression into the nation for 40 years. He maintained relations with both the superpower nations at the time. By 1960 the USA had given more than $165 million in aid to Afghanistan to improve its infrastructure. The USSR had given them $1 billion worth of loans by 1973.
The country developed during the 1940s-1960s. The capital city of Kabul saw rapid advancement in modern architecture, social reforms, and the military. Plenty of tourists were charmed by the country and the locals.
It all went downhill in 1978. The Afghan Communist Party backed by USSR staged a coup to take over control of Afghanistan.
This did not settle well with the Afghans. All sections of the society from academics to farmers joined forces to rebel against the Communist government. They were ordinary men who joined forces to prevent foreign invasion. They called themselves the Mujahideen.
This came under the scrutiny of the US government as it was in a cold war with the Soviets. USA, China, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia started supporting the Mujahideen. They provided arms & ammunition and training to rebel against the Soviets. Few notable members who received funds and training by the US include Osama Bin Laden and his associates.
This led to a vicious civil war. The Afghan National Army backed by the Soviets fought the Mujahideen supported by the US.
It was a bloody war (the Soviets dropped bombs that looked like toys, when picked up by children it would blast and permanently maim them). This war killed over 2 million Afghan civilians.
The Soviets had control over the urban cities. However, they could not control the mountain ranges. The Mujahideen used guerrilla tactics to fight the Soviets. The Afghan army kept attacking them and fleeing to the mountains.
The Soviets won the battles but lost the war.
They decided to withdraw their troops in 1989 after 10 years of bloodshed. Subsequently, the US too lost interest with the Soviets gone. They left the Mujahideen to their own devices.
With so much power and freedom, the Mujahideen warlords soon toppled the Afghan government. It was a lawless land. The warlords then started fighting amongst each other. They fought for territory and to spread their own Islamic beliefs. They fired hundreds of thousands of rockets at each other killing numerous civilians.
By 1996 the most extremist, battle hardened faction of the Mujahideen formed a new group. They called it the Taliban.
Taliban had an oppressive regime. Women forbidden to take part in public life, music, films, photos were banned. Following any festivities other than those in Islam was an offense. Men had to keep a beard and girls over ten are discouraged from going to school. Any offense to the Sharia law was penalized by the amputation of limbs or public execution.
The US still ignored the mess it created in Afghanistan. Until the 9/11 happened.
Afghanistan has been at war for the last 41 years. It has vaporized all the development of the previous decades. The country does not remember what peace and freedom feel like. It was used as a pawn in the cold war. The country is a fraction of what it once was.
It is truly a country lost in time.