I spent some time in Kandahar in 2009. Things weren’t great when I was there. But its history has seen much, much worse than what I saw.
Here are some interesting facts I put together about the city of Kandahar:
– It is one of the oldest human settlements in the world.
– Although it seems to be in a rather barren, uninhabitable area, it has held great strategic importance over centuries due to its location along important trade routes between the different edges of Asia.
– It was believed to have been founded by Alexander the Great in 330 BC and “Kandahar” comes from a local interpretation of “Alexander”
– Kandahar has been witness to alternating periods of war and peace and as such, the people have evolved to be resilient and adopt a survival instinct to keep their families alive.
– Kandahar International Airport was built in the 1960’s, by Afghans but under USAID support. Over the years it has been controlled by Afghans, Soviets, Taliban and most recently, NATO, over the years. While the airfield was controlled by NATO, it was considered one of the busiest airports in the world with up to 5,000 military flights of all varieties coming in and out each week.Today, six commercial airlines service the airport and it is still used by NATO forces and the Afghan Air Force.
– Kandahar is also where my country spent a lot of time, effort and money trying to make things better after the Taliban were forced into hiding and NATO moved in to prevent them from using the area as a safe haven and training ground for terrorists. Canada put effort into eradicating polio, building schools and other infrastructure (such as the Dahla Dam), training teachers and security forces. Kandahar Province is also where many Canadians gave their lives toward the effort: at least 130 young Canadians lost, and many more Afghans gone from this world because of constant conflict in the area. May they rest in peace.