Khalil's family moved around Afghanistan for 10 years. He fought under Ahmed Shah Massoud against the Taliban. After they fell he came back to Kabul to join his wife and six children, and for two months they have been trying to rebuild. They sleep towards the back of the property, some in a canvas tent too hot to enter during the day, the rest under a tarp. Khalil's wife Shahnaz once worked as a teacher, but she has suffered from severe depression since her father, a civilian, was killed during the earlier Soviet war. She spends much of her time in one of Kabul's few functioning hospitals, but this morning Khalil thought he could bring her home for a visit. When she arrived, she started shouting hysterically and was taken away by neighbors.
It is happening through a combination of faith, hope and desperation. At the beginning of Khoshal Khan A, Abdil Jalil, 55, pulls water from a well, dumps it on a pile of dirt, and molds mud to make a poor man's unfired bricks. His auto repair shop was looted during the civil war and then expropriated by the Taliban. Now he's selling 1,000 bricks for less than $8, working with a team of friends—but still unable at times to meet the demand.
A few hundred meters down the rutted, dirt road is Mohammed Ibrahim, a mason, working with his brother and nephew to reconstruct a house he built himself in the 1970s. They're hurrying to complete two rooms before winter—each requires 10,000 bricks—so the 16 members of their extended family will have shelter. There is a tentative sense that peace may last, due to a curious partnership of the coalition army and the divine. "Thanks to God, we have no fear," says Obaidullah, a tailor, who is rebuilding with the help of his five brothers and their wives. But when the structures are done, the neighborhood will still have no power and no clean water. "We don't know where the assistance is going," says Khalil. "We only know that we haven't received any of it."
But Khalil is certain there will be war again. Recently, he bought himself a uniform and sewed on insignia he found at a secondhand market. He doesn't want to fight, but he is a soldier, so he has applied to the Ministry of Defense for a spot in the fledgling Afghan national army. In the meantime, Khalil can't afford the pen and notebook he promised his son for school, just as the Afghan government is unable to fulfill its promises of better days for Khoshal Khan A. But Khalil keeps building, his hopes slowly rising once again from the dust.