In Icy Tip of Afghanistan, War Seems Remote – NYTimes.com

Posted: March 20, 2012 in History
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BOZAI GUMBAZ, Afghanistan — As the pickup truck bounced toward a remote village deep in northeastern Afghanistan, the young woman was told by her companions that she could toss her burqaaside.“It’s free here,” said the woman, Zarmina Nazaria, a 26-year-old nurse. She slipped off her powder-blue burqa and laid it on the rear seat.The rules that apply to the rest of Afghanistan are often irrelevant in the Wakhan Corridor, a frigid, finger-shaped stretch of land squeezed between Tajikistan, Pakistan and China that is cut off from the Afghan heartland by the icy ramparts of the Hindu Kush. Here, the one constant of life for most Afghans — war — is as distant as a tropical wind.From the Soviet invasion to the civil war to the Talibantakeover to the anti-Taliban resistance, the Wakhan has remained largely free of strife. No Taliban show their faces here, nor do American soldiers.

Villagers train to be wildlife rangers, not army rangers. The prevalent brand of Islam, Ismailism, is moderate; its spiritual leader, the Aga Khan, is a billionaire society figure in Paris.Foreign tourists are trickling in, about 200 during each of the past two summers. The trekkers and mountaineers are following in the footsteps of explorers like Marco Polo andSir Aurel Stein. This year, British and Polish expeditions climbed 20,000-foot peaks in the area.Long ignored by Kabul, the people lack the most basic services. But nongovernmental groups have a growing presence, finding it easier to work here than in more violent parts of Afghanistan. Greg Mortenson, co-author of “Three Cups of Tea,” has built 11 schools in the corridor through his nonprofit group, the Central Asia Institute. Foreign employees of the Wildlife Conservation Society track snow leopards and train local rangers.

via In Icy Tip of Afghanistan, War Seems Remote – NYTimes.com.

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