OpinionJournal - Extra AFTER THE WAR: "
The Drought Breaks
A roundup of the past month's good news from Afghanistan.
The drought that has gripped Afghanistan for the past several years may finally be breaking:
In the week between Christmas and New Year's Day, about 3 1/4 inches of rain fell in Kandahar over a two-day period. . . . Rainfall for December was four times the normal amount for the month. . . .
North of Kandahar Air Base, the Tamak River rose so high the water was nearly touching the bottom of the main bridge leading into town. Meanwhile, near Kabul, rainwater filled some smaller streams that are usually bone-dry this time of year.
According to Khoshhal Murad, a United Nations interpreter in Kabul, Afghans are saying 'this is a sign from God.'
When the Taliban were in power, Murad said, some of its leaders grew so frustrated by the drought they randomly rounded up dozens of people, drove them into the desert and demanded they pray for rain. It didn't come. 'You can't force people to pray,' Murad said. 'They should have gone out in the desert themselves.'
Murad said his father told him this is the most rain he has seen in more than 30 years.
A metaphorical drought also has broken throughout Afghanistan. As Kim Hart of the American Journalism Review writes, 'with the establishment of a new government and building of infrastructure, a continuing U.S. military presence and the hunt for terrorists, Afghanistan is rife with stories of long-term consequence.' Unfortunately, as Hart notes, there's hardly anyone left in Afghanistan to report it:
Once a journalism hot spot, Afghanistan was all but left behind when the media's spotlight turned to the conflict in Iraq. In June/July 2003, AJR reported that only a handful of reporters remained in the struggling country on a full-time basis, while other news organizations floated correspondents in and out when time and resources permitted.
A year and a half later, Afghanistan has become even more of an afterthought. Only two news organizations--Newsweek and the Washington Post--have full-time reporters stationed in Kabul, the capital. Other major newspapers, such as the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times, rely on stringers in Afghanistan and correspondents based in New Delhi, India, to cover the region, a stark contrast to the hundreds of reporters pouring into Iraq since the war began. The New York Times uses a stringer, albeit a full-time one. Television networks have nearly disappeared.
As the old saying goes, all dressed up and nowhere to go. Just when, after decades of bloodshed and despair, Afghanistan is finally getting back on its feet, the media have already moved on. But as citizens of countries whose servicemen and -women liberated Afghanistan from the Taliban yoke and continue to help rebuild of the country, we deserve to be told when all that blood, sweat and money is bringing good results. Below are the past month's stories from Afghanistan that you might have missed."