Last year, I was driving in Panjshir with a colleague when in response to one of my endless “why” questions about Afghanistan, he eventually replied, “In Afghanistan, there are too many whys and not enough becauses.”
Recent Taliban attacks like the one on medical aid workers brutally killed in northeast Afghanistan last week and the suicide bombing in Kabul’s city center on Tuesday are heartbreaking reminders of the dangers to NGO personnel working in Afghanistan. They also highlight the risks associated with Mountain2Mountain’s (M2M) own work in a country where violence and insurgency continue to escalate.
As I prepare to return to Afghanistan next month in the wake of such devastating headlines, I am compelled to examine the question family, friends and supporters ask me every day here at home. “Why?”
The response is as simple, and as frustrating, as the question.
Because Afghans deserve a chance to rebuild their ravaged country and shape its future.
Because all of us are safer when Afghanistan is stabilized.
Because Afghan women and girls are the key to long-term prosperity and stability.
And because they can’t do alone.
The old adage, “If we don’t, then who will” never resonated as soundly as it does today.
This call to action is answered daily by thousands of aid workers across the world who work tirelessly alongside local communities. Afghanistan is not alone in regions of the world that pack a heavy dose of reality every time you read the headlines. Yet every year more volunteers join the ranks of established NGOs and burgeoning nonprofits like our own. It’s not from ignorance or naïveté that we passionately dive in. It’s from a belief that we can change the world. That one person can make a difference in another’s life.
My own efforts in Afghanistan stem from a desire not just to tackle women’s rights, education, maternal healthcare and jobs, but to also humanize the population. All too often, The Afghan people are painted with the same broad stroke that encompasses both the Taliban and those who live under their control. Across the country, Afghans are trying to rebuild their families, their communities and their country.
So it is that the question ‘why’ and the answer ‘because’ often lead to a larger question. “What Do Afghans Want?”
The vast majority of Afghans want peace and stability. They want access to medical care and education for their children. They want jobs that will enable them to contribute to their families and communities. And they want to thrive independently, without handouts from donor nations. They want security, representative government and a crackdown on corruption.
It is up to all of us to offer Afghans hope and a stake in their future. It is up to us to work alongside them in an effort to achieve the same things we want for ourselves and our own families.
When we focus on that the 85% that unites us instead of the 15% that divides us, the ‘Whys’ are quickly drowned in the chorus of “Why Not?”
In the weeks ahead I’ll be blogging from Afghanistan, sharing the stories of Afghans working alongside the international community to rebuild and reinvent their lives. As you read these stories, I hope you’ll agree that the benefits of staying the course far outweigh the risks.