10 Years Later: What America Has Accomplished in Afghanistan


"I am not saying it's perfect," says Dr. Sima Samar, a woman who chairs the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission. "But if you compare today and 10, 11 years ago...under the Taliban we had nothing."

Ten years ago, children in Afghanistan –- boys only -– studied the Koran, or militancy, and little else. Schools were shuttered, or burned to the ground. Today more than 6 million Afghan children are in school, according to the United Nations. That's seven times as many as attended school a decade ago. Shortages of teachers and classrooms persist, but now children –- boys and girls -- are studying and learning in ways that might actually help them, and their country, find a better future.

Ten years ago, health care in Afghanistan was an unmitigated nightmare. Again, women suffered disproportionately, forbidden from being alone in a room with a male physician. Today women and men both have greater access to a better level of care.

Finally, 10 years on there is the cost to American men and women. The nation's "blood and treasure," as they are often called.

More than 1,600 Americans have been killed in this decade of war, and more than 13,000 have been wounded. Americans have learned the term "I.E.D.," a dry-sounding acronym for explosives that have shredded vehicles and human limbs, and taken hundreds of those American lives.

So many soldiers have told us, in one way or the other, "The mission is worth it." This week our colleague Martha Raddatz asked Gen. John Allen, the new U.S. commander here, "Is it worth it?" Allen answered without hesitation: "It is…On the 11th of September we were attacked by people who had planned, organized and executed the attack on the United States, this sudden act of treachery on the United States. Three thousand people perished that one day. And it came from Kandahar. It came from Afghanistan, it came from a country that was governed by the Taliban, that had embraced al Qaeda, a worldwide terrorist organization, given them safe haven so they could plan this attack. And so when the United States responded to that and we've been here ever since, it is a direct-line relationship. The sacrifices this country has made has been made to ensure that this never happens again."

But today fewer Americans believe the sacrifices have been worth the fight, and fewer still support a continuation of the fight. Remarkably, a respected poll out this week finds that one in three American veterans of the post-9/11 wars do not believe the wars in Afghanistan as well as Iraq) have been worth it.

Ten years later, in Afghanistan and back home, there is much to cheer, gains worth celebrating. There are also frightening signs that the gains may not be held.

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