The ongoing conflict in Iraq has properly captured the worldÕs attention. But there is news to report in another front of the war against terrorism: the nation of Afghanistan.
Three years ago, 25 million Afghans suffered under the brutal rule of the Taliban regime.
The Taliban banned basic freedoms, tortured and executed opponents, and allowed warlords to beat and oppress those unfortunate enough to live in their midst.
The Taliban government gave aid and comfort to terrorists, allowing training camps to be constructed and for al-Qaeda to set up a base of operations there.
Three years ago, many nations in the world demanded or pleaded with the Taliban to extradite their Òguest,Ó Osama bin Laden. The regime refused all diplomatic efforts to take bin Laden into custody and denied any links to terrorism.
After the 9/11 attacks, President Bush offered the Taliban still one more chance to hand over bin Laden or face invasion.
Again, the Taliban scoffed -- figuring that a U.S.-led coalition would have just as much trouble invading their country as did the Soviet army a few decades earlier.
Indeed, reports published in September 2001 concluded that AfghanistanÕs harsh terrain and unpredictable weather patterns would make a U.S.-led invasion exceedingly difficult. Many predicted quagmire, stalemate, or defeat.
They were wrong.
A U.S.-led coalition, consisting of roughly 90 nations, remained resolute. Coalition soldiers occupied the nation within days, in one of the quickest and most successful military missions ever conducted.
The Taliban regime was routed; those not killed or captured went into desperate flight.
Osama bin Laden has spent most of his days since the U.S. invasion searching for places to hide. He dares not sleep in the same place twice.
After the TalibanÕs fall, many of the same skeptics of the war scoffed about the potential for building a peaceful, pluralistic government in its place. Afghanistan has, after all, suffered decades of war, five years of Taliban repression, and a difficult seven-year drought.
Yet slowly, the rule of the people has begun to replace the rule of warlords.
The Afghan government has drafted a new constitution that accords its people basic rights of free speech, free expression, and freedom of religion.
Women are being accorded new rights and new dignity; for the first time in years, girls are being allowed to attend school.
A new national army has been formed to help defend the nation and a new national police force to extend security throughout Afghanistan.
Our allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), already a presence in the capital city of Kabul, are now expanding outward to help Afghans better secure their nations from feuding warlords.
Roads are being built to link cities and increase trade. Electricity is finding its way to villages.
Satellite dishes are popping up. Over 100 newspapers are being published. The economy is beginning to grow.
ItÕs unfortunate that the stories that seem to command all the headlines are those of setbacks and failure. We tend to shrug at good news, if itÕs reported by the media at all.
The road to democracy will be rough for Afghans. It was for the Japanese and Germans after World War II. And it was for Americans when our country was founded.
Though dangerous detours may still be on the road, Afghanistan appears for now to be well on the way to a freer society that is a partner with the international community rather than with terrorists. ThatÕs a major success in the war on terror, and a sea of change from where we were just three years ago.
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