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Learning English - Words in the News
 
22 December, 2004 - Published 12:56 GMT
 
Afghanistan reconstruction is slow
 
Damaged house in Kabul

It is over three years since US-led forces overthrew the Taliban in Afghanistan. There was widespread celebration but for most Afghans the key test of whether things are changing has been the pace of reconstruction. Expectations are high, but the scale of the task is massive. This report from Andrew North:

Listen to the story

A year ago it took about two days to drive between Kabul and the southern city of Kandahar. Today it takes about five hours on a smoothly tarmacked road paid for by millions of US taxpayers' dollars. That is one sign of progress. Work is now starting on another key link between Kandahar and the western city of Herat. Other road projects are underway.

Thousands of schools have been built too. Private money, a substantial portion of it thought to be from the illegal drugs trade, is also funding a spurt of new building in the cities, but many say they have seen little change, especially in rural areas where most Afghans live, where villages without even basics like running water, power or schools remain the norm.

The US Agency for International Development, the main source of reconstruction funds, acknowledges demands for more progress, but after twenty-five years of war, they say the country's infrastructure is in such bad shape it will take years to fix, even with more money. That remains a concern though, that Iraq is taking American cash away from Afghanistan, although US officials deny it.

But security is also holding reconstruction back, especially in the south and east where attacks by anti-government militants continue. And security precautions take funds away from actual rebuilding work. For instance, the main US roads contractor, Louis Berger, has had to create its own three thousand strong private army to protect its workers. That is why bringing security to the whole country is still key to unlocking Afghanistan's many other problems.

Andrew North, BBC News, Kabul

Listen to the words

key link
important connection

underway
taking place now

a substantial portion
large part

a spurt
a sudden and brief period of increased activity

basics
the simplest and most important things

the norm
the way things are usually

reconstruction
the process of building something again that has been damaged or destroyed

infrastructure
basic systems and services such as power supplies, that a country uses in order to work effectively

bad shape
in a poor condition

key to unlocking
extremely important to solving

 
 
 
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