Despite the utter destruction and ongoing military operations against al Qaeda operatives, Afghanistan is awash in long-term public and private plans for investment and reconstruction. The central bank has teamed up with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to try to tackle one of the world's largest unemployment situations- 98% for Afghanistan as a whole, with 87% of the populace out of work in the capitol city of Kabul. The Afghan Employment Recovery Act (AERA), which began in early 2003, has been quick to tackle the problems that have plagued the country since the days of liberation from the Taliban .
One person who's benefiting from those changes is Abdul Samad, a 45 year-old father of 12, who sells balloons near the central market place of Kabul. Each morning at sunrise he gets up, says his prayers, and begins blowing up his balloons for the day that are supplied free of charge from the AERA. Through a translator, Mr. Samad says that on a good week he can sell five, maybe six balloons, usually to passing US military personnel. His biggest obstacle right now, he says, is the pinwheel concession his brother-in-law Omar runs a short distance from where he stands each day. The two had been working side by side for years in the family's poppy growing business in the Parwan province, but now barely speak to each other.
The Bush Administration expects to ask Congress for up to $50 billion early next year to pay for ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, White House budget director Joshua Bolten told reporters on Monday. "Certainly the success of the AERA program will be a chief selling point when we go to Capitol Hill."