The muttered volume of whispered discontent murmuring through the Afghan countryside since the violent arrival of foreign forces of supposed ‘liberation’ turned ‘occupation’ back in 2001, is finally, slowly but surely, turning into a rumbling growl that resonates, dangerously, from one undeveloped valley to the next with, unsurprisingly, the Taliban troubled eastern regions, those bordering Pakistan, expressing the greatest dissatisfaction at how, for them, nothing at all has changed as the war goes on and on with the peace necessary for sustainable development an endlessly retreating dream.

“When the Americans invaded, they brought with them the great promise of change,” says Zafarullah, who struggles, against the odds, to make some kind of life for himself, his sick wife and five children ranging in age and gender from an eldest son of around 22 years down to the youngest, a visibly weak, daughter of just seven and who, like his ailing wife, needs medical attention. That in the remote, mountainous area of ‘home’ is unavailable and, for him, would be unaffordable even if it did exist.

“We were led to believe that the Americans and the other foreign troops who came here would, after they dealt with the ‘enemy’, help Afghanistan to be a good country; a prosperous country like it was, according to my father, in the days of King Zahir Shah,” he continued, disappointment etched deep in the weathered creases of a face grown old before its time. “We, most of the people from this valley,” he casts his eyes over the rugged terrain of the last outpost of Kabul province bordering on Nangarhar, “were refugees in Pakistan during the Russian time and, because of lack of facilities and work here, many people still prefer to stay in Pakistan where there are medical facilities and schools, while here, in our home, there is nothing - not even a road or electricity and water is, depending on the time of year, a problem too.”

Zafarullah’s is just one voice among many thousands of voices increasingly daring to speak out, not only about what they see as - with Isaf, Nato et al supposedly set to leave at the end of 2014 - a repeat of the American abandonment that fed Afghanistan to the wolves when the former Soviet Union withdrew, but also at the shocking betrayal of their very own leaders, who have - at the expense of generations of ‘feudal’ trust - literally stolen any hope of an acceptable, let along progressive future, from the tribes they represent.

In what must be ranked in amongst the most blatant examples of outright corruption ever, the Afghan parliamentarians, tribal leaders and anyone else in a position to do so, have - and continue to - pocket billions of dollars of the foreign aid that has poured into the country over the last 12 years. And which, although much reduced in volume, is still flowing in and - at equal speed - straight back out into foreign bank accounts, foreign property holdings and companies, is lavished on the ultra-rich lifestyles of family members, who have not - often dare not - set foot in the land of their ancestors from which this loot flows. The relatively little that actually remains within Afghanistan itself being used to maintain the ‘kingly’ lifestyles to which the betrayers of their people have become accustomed too and - their people are, in the face of such horrifying exploitation, getting dangerously angry indeed.

“It is the long suffering people in the rural areas, who have paid the highest price of this endless series of wars,” says Asadullah, an educated ‘gentleman’ farmer from the Kabul area, who struggles to assist the less fortunate around him and whose lives he is dedicated to improving. “Urban dwellers have, without a doubt, had it hard, but rural people have had it a thousand times harder and, while things have definitely improved for urban dwellers, who now have, for example, reasonable access to education and a certain amount of work opportunities - although not always to medical facilities, some of those living in rural areas, especially in the eastern provinces bordering Pakistan, have very little, if anything, at all. And this, in turn and particularly due to a lack of education, leaves them wide open to the influence of groups such as Taliban.”

Continuing: “If even as little - or as much - as 50 percent of the aid money intended to be used for the reconstruction and development of these rural areas had been spent as it should over the last 12 years, not only would the country be back on its feet - the economy of Afghanistan has always been agriculturally-based - but, as a direct result of being able to rebuild their lives along traditional lines updated with new, improved agricultural and associated technologies, also rural people would have been at the forefront of creating the very peace this country so desperately needs in order to survive and be strong enough to take its legitimate place amongst the nations of the world once again instead of being frowned on as a pariah.”

“One of the many problems is that those currently holding positions they abuse, completely overlook, as do more advantaged urban dwellers too, that the badly disadvantaged rural population of Afghanistan outnumber them by far and their continued suffering - they are basically the ones who have fought, died and lost everything in these wars - has magnified the great divide between urban and rural to the point where something is bound to give. The fact that the aid money designated to help them has also been stolen, makes the situation even worse,” Asadullah explained.

Concluding: “To be frank, all we can do now is pray for a miracle and that the peace we so desperately need will come and come soon, but I doubt it!”

    The writer is author of The Gun Tree:  One Woman’s War (Oxford University Press, 2001) and lives in Bhurban.