This is a brief account of my six months in Afghanistan in 2003. I worked as the Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) project doctor in the western province of Herat, spending alternate weeks in Herat City and in Kushk-e-Kohna, a sparsely populated district some two hours north of the provincial capital by four-wheel drive. I arrived in February, just over two years after the US-backed overthrow of the Taliban. Herat is now controlled by its Emir and Governor, Ismail Khan, who rules beyond the reach of Afghanistan’s central government. With a private army of sixty thousand men and control of customs revenue from trade with Iran, it is no wonder he has not, despite invitation, joined the government of Hamid Karzai. His unchallenged power and the considerable wealth at his disposal have in fact made Herat relatively more stable and prosperous than the rest of the country.
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