Based on what Americans have been seeing in the news media about Afghanistan lately, there may not be many who believed President Bush on Tuesday when he told the United Nations that the "Afghan people are on the path to democracy and freedom." But then again, not many Americans know what Afghanistan was like before the American-led invasion. Let me offer some perspective.
This summer I visited Kandahar, the former Taliban stronghold in southern Afghanistan, for the first time since the winter of 1999. Five years ago, the Taliban and its Al Qaeda allies were at the height of their power. They had turned Afghanistan into a terrorist state, with more than a dozen training camps churning out thousands of jihadist graduates every year.
The scene was very different this time around. The Kandahar airport, where I had once seen Taliban soldiers showing off their antiaircraft missiles, is now a vast American base with thousands of soldiers, as well as a 24-hour coffee shop, a North Face clothing store, a day spa and a PX the size of a Wal-Mart. Next door, what was once a base for Osama bin Laden is now an American shooting range. In downtown Kandahar, the gaudy compound of the Taliban leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, now houses United States Special Forces units.
As I toured other parts of the country, the image that I was prepared for - that of a nation wracked by competing warlords and in danger of degenerating into a Colombia-style narcostate - never materialized. ...
The last paragraph is most interesting to me and introduces the rest of the article. I think things are going better there than the main stream media has generally led us to believe. And I think that time is the single element that allows such countries to move toward modernity. Every day that Afghanistan doesn't collapse into chaos is a day of tiny incremental progress.
I think the same is true of Iraq as well. We may need to be involved in helping them with secuity and other issues for years or even decades. But every day they avoid civil war is a day closer to stability and prosperity.