KABUL — Eighteen years after the start of the Afghan war, Kabul is one of the fastest growing cities on the planet.
The population has quadrupled but the infrastructure shows little progress — Afghanistan remains the land of the wheel. Wheelbarrows for hire do double duty as lounge chairs for their owners.
Some, like female construction workers in hard hats and burqas, have one foot in the present and the other in the 15th century.
Which way that balance tips depends on peace negotiations now underway between the U.S. and the Taliban.
As part of any deal, the U.S. would require a pledge that terrorists would not be allowed to use Afghanistan as a base to launch attacks on the West or other nations.
But many Afghans believe the only thing standing between them and strict Islamic Taliban rule are the 14,000 U.S. troops still based in Afghanistan.
We spoke to one college student who said life as he knows it would end if the U.S. troops leave.
Despite peace talks, the Taliban just announced a Spring Offensive — attacking in different parts of the country — a move U.S. officials have called reckless.
In heavily-guarded Kabul, weeks can go by without major violence. 18 years ago you had to wear full body armor every day — not now.
In last year’s Spring offensive the Taliban said its prime target was U.S. forces. Now it says the focus is on attacking anyone connected with the Afghan government.
Eighteen years ago the Taliban were on the run, turning their Toyota pickups around in the face of U.S. Special Forces guided air attacks.
18 years later they are back, in control of half of the country and waiting for a U.S. withdrawal.