Report from our first day in Kabul, Monday 1 December 2003:
about 13.00 our Ariana Afghan Airlines flight to Kabul took off
and after nice overview over the plains of Punjab and NWFP and of the
mountain ranges separating Pakistan and Afghanistan – with snow
covered tops, we landed in the valley of Kabul. During the flight we made
friends with Mr. Bashir Ahmad, General Manager
for the National Engineering
Services Pakistan, a building consultant overseeing the construction
of road between Torkham border and Jalalabad. A Swedish company is involved
in a similar task with designing the road construction from Jalalabad
onwards to Kabul.
was a rather depressing landing, on one side of the runway we could see
a large number of aircraft wreckages (see photo above), and on
the other side we had the military bases full of attack planes and helicopters.
The airport building was also depressing, a small two storied building
run down by lack of maintenance. An enormous silk screen painting of Ahmed
Shah Massoud, the late hero of the liberation war against the Taliban,
covered the front entrance of the building (photo to the left).
were invited to stay with the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan, and they
had sent a van to pick us up, and the driver Mr. Nadar
immediately spotted us without having to show any name poster, as there
had been only about 20 passengers on this Boeing 727 flight from Islamabad.
We drove through the beleaguered city, passed the fortified American Embassy,
and towards the area of Shar-e-Nau (once upon a time the area of Kabul
where most tourists stayed) where the Swedish Committee since the Spring
2003 has its living quarters for expatriates and volunteers (photo
to the right). Ironically, the same compound used to be the living
quarters of the Taliban leaders before they had to run away in 2001. It
is a nice compound with several buildings, apartments and common space
of various kind, and functioning but slow Internet connection. Also a
very nice staff.
On the way we saw some women in the street, most of them veiled in the
typical Afghani light blue burkhas, totally covering the body with an
embroidered grid over the face. We also saw soldiers from the United Nations
Isaf forces in their armoured cars, but not many Westerners on foot.
Meeting with Jörgen Persson at the Sida office in
installing ourselves in the apartment we were so gratitiously provided
with, we took a taxi to the Sida office, situated in the neighbouring
area of Wazir Akbar Khan, to meet Mr. Jörgen
Persson, Counsellor and head of the Sida office in Kabul, who had
been most instrumental in organising our visit to Kabul.
Jörgen told us that he only recently took up the posting, and the
Sida office had just been fully equipped. It functions as a branch of
the Swedish Embassy in Islamabad.
Sida is mainly working with multilateral projects in Afghanistan,
and Jörgen Persson’s job is to negotiate and coordinate this
cooperation. The main agencies are the UN, EU and the World Bank. The
Americans are big donors and also participate in coordination activities,
but mostly end up running their own projects in their own way.
Bilateral cooperation consists mainly of support to the Swedish Committee
and to the transport sector.
Jörgen informed us that the security situation is bad, on the edge
so to say. Maybe it would become better after the Loya Jirga to be held
from the middle of December. Otherwise he thinks it is a real challenging
task to be here at this time, Afghanistan being a ‘laboratory’
for fast development.
Evening meeting with SCA workers
We enjoyed supper together with a few of the Swedish Committee
for Afghanistan staff (expatriates and volunteers) in the SCA compound
dining hall, and had a chance to present SASNET and our activities, as
well as getting ourselves informed and updated about the valuable work
that SCA carries out running primary schools, health clinics, etc. in
a really big way in several parts of the country. SCA employs more than
9,000 persons in the country, and moved its head office from Peshawar
to Kabul in the Spring 2003. It is one of the major NGO’s working
in Afghanistan with very good reputation as it has been working with Afghani
refugees in Pakistan and inside Afghanistan ever since the early 1980’s,
and even during the Taliban regime from 1995–2001 SCA managed to
continue run its schools and clinics in both the Taliban held areas as
well as in those regions controlled by opposition forces.
Christer Persson, Manager for the Southern
Börje Almqvist, Information Officer,
Central Management Office Kabul
Ahmed Abd el Rahman, Senor Health Advisor
Dawn Laboc, CNM MSN MCH Advisor for NRO
Kerstin Björk, MCH Trainer, Provincial
Health Unit Kunduz
Almqvist (photo to the right) has worked as a journalist
for many years, and we know of his informed writing on Afghanistan through
AfghanistanNytt, and he has also had some relations to Sydasien, the magazine
Staffan and Lars have been involved in publishing for the past 27 years.
Christer Persson (photo to the left)
is working for SCA as Manager for the Southern region. He has previously
worked for private companies in South East Asia and Australia. He is supposed
to be stationed at Ghazni, southwest of Kabul, but due to security considerations
– it was in Ghazni a French aid worker was killed in the middle
of November – he is now temporarily posted at the SCA head office
Ahmed Abd el Rahman, coming from Sudan is
a medical doctor. He is health advisor to SCA, posted at the head office
Dawn Laboc is a midwife by training and is
working for SCA in the northern region at Kunduz with mother and child
Kerstin Björk is a senior midwife working
at Astrid Lindgren Hospital in Stockholm, who recently joined SCA to work
as a trainer at the SCA provincial health unit in Kunduz in north eastern