mandag 13. september 2021

John Simpson: Afghanistan, its future, and why China matters

The Khyber Pass is one of the world's great invasion routes - forbidding, steep and treacherous, stretching from the Afghan border to the Valley of Peshawar, 20 miles (32 km) below, in Afghanistan. For three thousand years, armies have struggled through these rocky defiles and camped in its valleys. You can still see the insignia of regiments from the British and British Indian armies, which continue to be carefully maintained, along the sides of the road, overlooked by the forts they once built and guarded. From the rocks above, Pashtun tribesmen armed with ancient jezails, or flintlock rifles, would snipe at passing soldiers with amazing accuracy.

Nowadays trucks laden with agricultural produce from Afghanistan labour round the sharp bends, sometimes with men and boys clinging to the side of them for the ride. On the pathways beside the road, old men trudge along, bent double under boxes of smuggled goods.