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Kabul's struggle continues, one year on

By Joe Havely

For the vast majoity of Afghans, life remains a daily struggle
For the vast majoity of Afghans, life remains a daily struggle

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(CNN) -- Exactly one year after the fall of the Taliban regime in Kabul, violent clashes at the city's university have starkly illustrated Afghanistan's continued instability and the simmering tensions that dominate daily life after decades of conflict.

On November 13, 2001, forces led by the opposition Northern Alliance entered a city shaken by weeks of American bombing and stunned by the sudden departure of its former rulers.

Instead of the bloody street fights many had expected, the Taliban who had ruled Kabul and most of Afghanistan disappeared with hardly a shot fired in the city.

One year on and life has changed dramatically in the Afghan capital -- in many ways for the better.

Optimism about the future is perhaps higher than it has been in years, but tensions remain and the threat of violence is never far away.

Under the Taliban women -- if they even dared to venture out -- used to walk nervously through the city's streets, forced to shroud their bodies in the all-encompassing burkha.

Today women are allowed to work -- though few can find a job -- they are no longer afraid to show their faces in public and can even visit beauty parlors.

In the city's markets, traders who fled the country as refugees have returned and business is thriving once more.

Urban renewal

An urban vitality in the form of traffic jams, music, and bustling bazaars that many had long forgotten has returned to the city with a vengeance.

But many residents still struggle to make ends meet and rely on aid agency handouts to feed their families.

Unemployment is rampant, hospitals and educational facilities languish in appalling states of disrepair and discontent is spreading.

After the fall of the Taliban the world community pledged billions of dollars in aid to Afghanistan, promising the country would not be forgotten and allowed to lapse into the quagmire that made it a breeding ground for religious fanatics and their terrorist allies.

One year after the fall and complaints are growing that the world has reneged on those promises.

Millions of dollars have been poured into the country, but for the vast majority of Afghans the daily struggle to survive remains as tough as it ever has.

Millions of dollars more in promised aid and assistance, simply haven't shown up.

Weak government

Vast crowds gather to apply for the few jobs that become available
Vast crowds gather to apply for the few jobs that become available

On top of that, the central government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai is weak and largely unable to exercise its authority outside of Kabul where warlords have divided the country virtually into their own private fiefdoms.

After 23 years of war, brutally repressive rule and bitter factional conflict, rebuilding Afghanistan was never going to be an easy task.

Nonetheless, officials, aid agencies and city residents say far too much focus has been placed on providing emergency assistance.

Little attention, they say, has been given to the longer-term needs of reconstruction -- the kind of infrastructural work that will enable Afghanistan to develop and provide for itself.

The outbreaks of violence at Kabul's university, triggered by students protesting at the poor quality of their accommodation, were a stark illustration of that frustration -- and, perhaps, a timely warning.

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