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tv   Afghanistan - Back to the Future  BBC News  August 21, 2021 9:30pm-10:01pm BST

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hello, this is bbc news. the headlines... crowds continue to gather outside kabul airport, amid reports of chaotic scenes — as the us advises its citizens not to travel there until they are asked, because of security threats outside the gates. senior taliban figures — including the group's co—founder, mullah baradar — are in kabulfor talks about establishing a new government. greece has erected a 25 mile fence on its border with turkey amid warnings of many afghan civillians fleeing their country. there have been clashes between australian police and anti—lockdown demonstrators
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in sydney and melbourne. now on bbc news... afghanistan — back to the future. 60 years ago, life in afghanistan was very different to the battleground it's become in recent decades. america's relationship with the country was also very different as can be seen from a remarkable treasure trove of films, shot in the 19505 by american glenn foster, and his afghan assistant, hajji mehta—buddin. saeeda mahmood, born and brought up in southern afghanistan, explores and introduces the films. this is precious. i love this sweet. and ijust ate half of it and kept another half because i thought i will never, ever have them again. for me, this is a diamond. reminds me of my childhood. and the golden time.
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i was so excited to discover these films. my family had many photographs, but we lost them when we fled the afghan wars as refugees. most afghans have no pictures of their past. nothing to show their grandchildren. it is a terrible gap in our lives. these films, kept safe for half a century, are the only ones i have ever seen that have survived the wars. they show my afghanistan — to me, the real one. a land full of life and hope.
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they tell a special chapter of our story that's almost forgotten. half a century ago, an american, glenn r foster, from california arrived in southern afghanistan. he stayed on for seven years, a keen photographer in black and white and marvellous colour. glenn took his 16mm film camera through kandahar and helmand. he toured through villages and deserts. sometimes, hejust let the camera run. people chatter horses gallop foster's family kept the films in a trunk at home, and they kept a reel of tape, noting his impressions as plain
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as the day he recorded them. their calm and optimism surprises our 21st—century heirs. we tracked down foster's assistant, now living on the far side of the world in america.
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he hadn't seen the films in 50 years.
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the films capture a time when afghanistan was changing, modernising, filling with ideas. king zahir, the last afghan king, imagined a forward—looking country, united under one flag. all asia was emerging from the second world war.
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the old imperial power, britain, in retreat. new countries were born. india and pakistan, afghanistan's most intimate neighbour. in 1956, pakistan drew up its first constitution. it declared itself as something completely new — an islamic republic. drummers play mehtabuddin crossed the border into pakistan to film the celebrations. the schoolchildren are queuing up for an orange as a gift. it was a time of moral ambition, of aspiration for all. zahir shah saw his country
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as at the heart of a modern asia. here he is greeting the visiting president of turkey, celal bayar, in 1958. zahir shah cautiously opened up state and society. he reformed the army. he promoted afghan national independence day, known as thejeshn.
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it's hard to imagine now, but then kabul had money in the bank. $100 million. zahir shah decided to place his investment strategically into the south of afghanistan, where the river helmand cuts through an immense desert. dr farouq azam was adviser in the afghan ministry for power and energy.
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zahir shah hired the best foreign engineers with state—of—the—art equipment from a company called morrison knudsen. everyone called it mk. explosion
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and that's how our film—maker, glen foster, came to be there. he was an engineer with morrison knudsen. mk drove roads through the desert and canals through the sand. it built three collossal
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dams at lightning speed. foster and mehtabuddin went out to film each stage of the project in detail, from the grand opening of the dams to the narrowest canals spreading across the desert. not many americans still remember the old days in helmand, but there are a very few. went to afghanistan in, er... my daughter was about a year old. i went ahead of you because we didn't have any house for the family for the first six months, and we were working on the new kandahar international airport. mm—hm. and then they came over about six months later. we lived in this little bungalow... it was a duplex. was it a duplex? yes, and it had one bathroom, a living room and a long kitchen with a table at the end
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with two chairs. quite small, yeah. that was the dining room. she laughs well, it had been built in a huge compound that the government of afghanistan had made available to mk quite a few years earlier when mk went in in 1946 and �*7 to start the helmand valley project. the way these guys are so self—sufficent and so... if you're working here and have to move a 20—tonne generator from here to there, you can't call up joe blow at the crane outfit and tell him to send over the 200—tonne crane! but they knew how to do it. the american technicians didn't come to afghanistan as single men
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forjust a few weeks as they do now. no, they brought their families, their phonographs. they brought their swimming costumes. music plays helmand was a fun place to grow up. my neighbours were american. we used to go to their picnic and 4th ofjuly parties. we used to invite them to our eid celebrations. i went to a co—educational school. my father opened a cinema in helmand. everything seemed possible then.
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i remember santa claus arriving on a donkey in lashkar gah and the presents he brought. really nice coloured pencils, books, dolls and sweets.
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afghanistan's irrigation projects had many difficulties in the early years. the land flooded, salts rose up through the earth and the early settlers were herdsmen with not much idea how to farm. it took a lot more investment and loans — huge loans — to green the desert. afghanistan's debt grew as the age
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of independence slipped into the age of international development. the new us government aid agency, usaid, replaced morrison knudsen.
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more than a million people moved into southern afghanistan in these boom years, seeking jobs in schools, hospitals and factories. glenn foster had no doubt in the power of technology to bring about profound social change.
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kandahar�*s brand—new airport used the latest technology. the outside world was drawing closer. we didn't see our new airport as the product of far away cold war between the united states and the soviet union. to us, it was a marvellous new opportunity. we were building the international airport. the airport included large underground fuel tanks, very high capacity fuel tanks. it included very sophisticated refuelling system, electronically controlled, right out of the apron. it included overnight facilities
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for maybe 100 people. back in the �*50s and �*60s, when a plane stopped to refuel everybody got out and stayed over night wherever you were on the way while the aircraft was serviced, and then the pilots and everybody would get back on — it might be the next morning! it was designed to use the maximum of local materials. and all construction around kandahar was all adobe and brick — there was no timber and no steel — so the airport was designed as brick and it was designed as arches. we had huge, big parabolic arches like this out facing the apron, and then a barrel arch that went behind them to enclose the terminal building. and the afghans were — they were experts on that kind of construction. well, the russians had built this
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beautiful airport in kabul, so usa said, "wait a minute, we can't have the russians building..." that's my opinion — "building airports up in kabul, we've got to do something too," so they built one in kandahar with usaid money. correct? that's right. yeah. in 1973, king zahir shah's cousin, daoud khan, overthrew him in a bloodless coup. he declared afghanistan a republic and himself the first president. daoud khan rode the tiger of his times, balancing big investments from the americans against those of the soviet union. i was part of that lucky generation, the first who would reap the rewards of all the hard work. we were ambitious girls. we had big ideas — to be lawyers, to be doctors, to transform our country.
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we could not have known how very quickly the best of times would become the worst. in 1978, a group of communist army officers overthrew president daoud khan, the saur coup d'etat. it began a generation of war and invasion — the war we are still living with today.
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my parents were worried for our future. my sisters and i dressed in old burqas and plastic shoes. we managed to catch a bus across the border into pakistan as refugees. we tookjust a small bundle of things. mehtabuddin escaped, too — along the road he had helped to build in the 1940s. in december 1979, soviet troops entered kabul. they broke open pul—i charkhijail. dr azam escaped like us. he fled the country and spent years
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abroad as a refugee. the years of war brought the dams, canals and power lines of southern afghanistan close to dereliction. kandahar airport, though, is still largely intact. the andersons didn't think they would see it again until a different technological innovation made that possible. i went on the internet here not too long ago to see what i could find out about the international airport in kandahar. and i found out that the nato forces were using it, but that also
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the afghanistan national airlines was using it for domestic flights all over afghanistan. and also for some international flights in the area. i would go back there. yeah. yeah, those were the days. we had a good life, we really did. we had a really good life.
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hello. saturday was always going to be the dodgier day of the weekend of the weather. a, dodgier day of the weekend of the weather. �* , , , ., , weather. a bit misty over the hills in wales. since _ weather. a bit misty over the hills
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in wales. since then, _ weather. a bit misty over the hills in wales. since then, the - weather. a bit misty over the hills in wales. since then, the rain - weather. a bit misty over the hillsl in wales. since then, the rain band has been progressing its weight northwards and eastwards, and will continue to do so for the next few hours as well. that said, i reckon it will stay pretty wet across southern parts of eastern scotland with some heavy rain going in over northern england, east anglia. still some rain to come across the south east. it will turn drier across western areas. there will be some mist and fog patches to watch out for. sunday morning, we will probably have some fairly thick cloud running in across east anglia and south—east england. into the afternoon, the sky brightens up and they will be some showers, some quite heavy. dry with sunshine for south—west england and wales. northern ireland and western areas of scotland. then, into next week, it looks like high pressure is going to be with us. that is going to be bringing the airfrom to be with us. that is going to be bringing the air from scandinavia so no heatwave in the forecast but
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there will be a pleasant spell of weather. it's going to be largely dry with some sunshine. that settling down process really gets under way on monday. most of us having a dry day with some sunny spells. in the sunshine, it's spells. in the sunshine, its august, it's going to feel warm in that sunshine, temperatures largely climbing into the low 20s. peaking in glasgow, birmingham and cardiff as well. into tuesday, and another largely fine day. a view mist and fog patches for the early risers. looking fine with some spells of sunshine. temperatures round coastal strip around 19 or 20, with the highest temperatures across western areas. 2a perhaps in glasgow. as we look at the forecast through the rest of the week, you can see that the weather does stay dry. there may be a tendency for it to turn a bit cloudier through the north and east
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of scotland and eastern england towards the end of the week. this is bbc news. i'm shaun ley. it's ten o'clock. in a few minutes, we'll be joined by viewers on bbc one for the main evening news, presented by clive myrie. but before that, the prime minister has spoken this evening to the united nations secretary general, antonio guterres. borisjohnson stressing the un's importance in providing humanitarian aid to afghanistan and pledged the uk's support. for labour, the shadow foreign secretary says the uk should work with nato allies to set up a safe corridor for afghan refugees to get out. lisa nandy has published a letter she's written to the foreign secretary dominic raab.
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in it she urges the government to step up the evacuation


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