Expanding outward from the Afghan capital and sweeping north past the foreign military base at Bagram, Afghanistan’s Shomali Plain, a bustling and bountiful agricultural hub with one of the safest roads in the country, seems, at first glance, like a peaceful oasis in an otherwise war-ravaged country.
Once one of the most heavily mined areas in the world – the result of more than three decades of continual conflict – the Shomali Plain is now alive with economic activity. The region’s once-destroyed orchards of grapes, figs, peaches and cherries are blooming again, and new roadside businesses have sprung up to serve the heavy flow of traffic to and from the military base, just 40 kilometers north of Kabul. The paved highway that cuts north through the valley from the capital is crowded with commuters, traders, and fuel-tankers bound for the base.
Yet as fighting between American and NATO forces and anti-government insurgents intensifies throughout the country, the relative calm in Shomali, the heartland of Parwan Province, may prove to be a short-lived aberration.
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Erin Cunningham is a freelance journalist based in Kabul.