Alistair Caldicott

Through Afghanistan

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Chapter 16 - Reflections: The Road Ahead

It had been a dangerous, but truly unforgettable and rewarding journey across Afghanistan. A vile journey in places, a scintillating journey in other places, sometimes barely a matter of minutes apart. A journey which thrilled and terrified in equal measure at the same time. I had been exhausted by the journey's hardship, but exhilarated by its life.

Perhaps doing things the hard way, I had at least discovered that such a journey could be undertaken. The experiences compressed into just one day alone could make it feel like a whole week or month of life had slipped by. Sometimes awful, frequently suspenseful, occasionally touched by insanity, but never dull. Like so many who have passed through before, there was a sense that you will always be a visitor, rather than a conqueror, of the country.

The key question for those, both inside and outside Afghanistan should be: How can we make the lives of the people noticeably and sustainably better? Everything stems from that.

Historically speaking, outside meddling in the country's affairs, had never really yielded particularly productive results. But, a few years into a new century, the world has once more rekindled its interest in Afghanistan again, in a dramatic and unforeseen way. How long this will last, we cannot say.

The scenario reminded me of the eyes of the unforgettably ragged Hazara children I had come face to face with deep in the middle of a country, which few outsiders have still to meaningfully penetrate. They seemed to demand assistance with a hint of haunted trauma, but also with a look of frightened, almost aggressive, distrust for anyone who might try to do so. Afghanistan, a cruelly beautiful country.

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