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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Sun Nov 17, 2013, 08:52 AM

59. afghanistan, after the war boom

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/currency/2013/11/afghanistan-after-the-war-boom.html

In 2001, U.S.-led NATO forces invaded Afghanistan to hunt down Al Qaeda and take down the Taliban government. In the years that followed, fifty-four billion dollars came into the country in the form of economic aid and military spending. War-related industries sprouted and prospered: construction, logistics, and security. The country’s official per-capita G.D.P. more than quadrupled from 2001 to 2010. There was rampant corruption and graft, but the country also saw concrete improvements: The maternal mortality rate dropped by half from 2000 to 2011, and life expectancy rose by nearly four years over that period.

This year, Afghanistan’s G.D.P. is expected to grow 3.7 per cent, down from growth of twelve per cent in 2012, according to a projection by the World Bank. In Kabul, drug addicts can be seen squabbling over heroin at traffic islands in broad daylight, and day laborers mill around on street corners, desperate for low-paying work. “The thing about a bubble is that it bursts,” Kate Clark, a senior analyst with the Afghanistan Analysts Network, said. “Some things you don’t lose, like education or aspiration,” Clark said. But she wonders what will happen to the young men and women who have reaped the benefits of the past decade and gotten used to comfortable lives replete with education and employment opportunities. “Particularly when you have so many young men out in the job market like we have now, I think there is going to be trouble ahead,” she told me.

When I was house-hunting in Kabul earlier this year, most of the available properties were the abandoned facilities of long-departed international organizations. They were compounds with servants’ quarters and gussied-up gardens, houses meant for a different era, when it seemed like the wartime wealth would carry on forever.

In the chill of a mid-March morning, I climbed inside one of Kabul’s many vacant structures to meet some members of the middle class. The bare scaffolding of a construction site was serving as an informal shelter for men who had traveled from the provinces in search of jobs. Many were university-educated professionals who had Facebook accounts and listened to the BBC.

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