Afghanistan Works Toward Stability

The police, courts and national army are institutions that must function well if Afghanistan is to grow into a stable democracy.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Afghanistan has seen its share of instability, and this week on MORNING EDITION we'll note how much the country has changed.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Five years ago today, in 2001, the capital city of Kabul fell. Its Taliban rulers fled. An American-backed opposition force moved in with NPR's Ivan Watson close behind.

IVAN WATSON: People here are celebrating. The Taliban left town around 7:00 o'clock last night in record speed. There have been some reports of fighting in the morning between Northern Alliance and Taliban forces on the outskirts of town. But since I arrived here four hours ago, I've only heard two gunshots...

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Ivan Watson in Kabul in 2001. And Renee, did that moment turn out to be a new beginning?

MONTAGNE: Steve, that's a question I asked on my recent reporting trip to Afghanistan. And yes, it was a new beginning. A huge number of Afghans have voted in a president and a parliament. Most Afghan children are now in school, and that includes millions of girls.

A fair number of roads have been built, but also the return of the Taliban as we've heard in the rise of suicide bombings, the huge surge in the opium trade; these are all things that are putting enormous pressure on the Afghans' really fragile government.

So Steve, this week we're looking at three key institutions of that government - the army, the court and the police.

(Soundbite of street sounds)

MONTAGNE: You hear stories every day in Afghanistan about police being targeted by terrorists and suicide bombers. And here today there was a suicide bomber that the police were chasing and who blew himself up before they caught him. We met one young policeman who had seen and barely escaped this kind of violence before.

Why do you do this job? For the money?

Unidentified Man #1 (Police Officer): No, because I love my people, I love my job. Not for the money.

MONTAGNE: We sat through a morning in a district court in Kabul.

(Soundbite of courtroom)

MONTAGNE: What would you say is the biggest need that Afghanistan courts have right now?

Unidentified Man #2: Actually, the biggest need is qualification. We have 1,500 judges. More than 50 percent, they are not qualified.

(Soundbite of crowd chanting)

MONTAGNE: Standing here 20 miles from the Pakistan border, talking to these Afghan Army National soldiers - is this the point that the Afghan army has got to secure eventually on its own if Afghanistan is to be protected?

Unidentified Man #3: Yeah, we do believe that defending this country is the job of the Afghans. And we have defended this country for 5,000 years, and I think we can do this job better than anybody else.

INSKEEP: Some of the sounds we'll hear this week from our own Renee Montagne. And Renee, what's coming when?

MONTAGNE: Well, on Wednesday we'll hear about the police, on Thursday its court system, and on Friday Afghanistan's new army.

You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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