What do you think the future holds for Afghanistan?
The BBC News website has gone behind the headlines to chart a day in the life of the country from dawn to dusk.
As parliamentary elections approach, we spoke to ordinary Afghans about their daily lives and their hopes for the future. BBC presenter Lyse Doucet also put your questions to a member of Afghanistan's government.
How far has Afghanistan come since the fall of the Taleban? What do you think about the forthcoming elections?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:
There is reform however it is mostly on paper. All the feminists and human rights groups who were outraged at the treatment of women and the poor under the Taliban seemed to have disappeared after the Taleban were overthrown. However, the plight of Afghani women and poor has yet to improve.
Bilal Sultan, New York, USA
There is no future of Afghanistan unless they themselves rule their country. Presently there is a struggle between the world powers to control Afghanistan.
Afghanistan is in the balance, as with all fledgling democracies. We in the West seem to forget the decades (even centuries) that it took to form our democracies - and yet we still force them down on others and assume they will be stable and democratic in a matter of months or years. This is a start but there is a long way to go with much hardship ahead.
Until women can claim their full human rights and have the economic clout that gives any group power, it will remain a backwards country dominated by machismo and gun law. The best case scenario is that Western investment and development will lead to more women being employed, the worse case would be that the West tears the country to pieces playing divide-and-conquer in pursuit of oil and other resources. But I sincerely hope that Afghanistan has a brighter future to look forward to.
Afghanistan needs stability before anything else can be achieved. Since there were more police guarding the Republican National Convention than there are US soldiers occupying Afghanistan and looking for Bin Laden I think the American commitment will prove folly and the country will continue be a place of misery and violence.
Afghanistan has moved on leaps and bounds since the fall of the Taleban. I myself have been there to visit relatives in Ubekistan, and seen a great deal of progression within the lower and upper classes. I feel that the fall of the Taleban has been beneficial to the whole country, and also to the overall peace of the nations.
Ungi Kaur, Pakistan
The story on the parliamentary candidate Sabrina Sagheb brings a glimmer of hope in what appears to be more and more a disappointing Middle East policy for the US. I hope she can be protected, I worry about her safety. She seems like a idealistic, brave, and beautiful woman.
John Savu, California MD, USA
We will have no future if 24-year-old kids start running our parliament like Sabrina Sagheb. Shouldn't there be an age limit for people to run for something as important as parliament of a country? How can Afghans trust the judgement of a 24-year-old kid who just came out of repression of Taleban since 2001 and who lacks experience? Can anyone else see this?
Muhibullah Ghazi, Kabul
Keep Afghanistan safe from its neighbours. Afghanistan will recover with or without foreign assistance.
Jamil, NY, USA
The problem with uniting Afghanistan is that most of its inhabitants do not view themselves primarily as Afghans and are more closely tied to their kinsmen than any national identity. I question the possibility for Afghans to put aside their long standing local loyalties and uniting behind a national authority.
Rob G, Kansas City, USA
Afghanistan has a long way to go after decades of war. However if stability, security, education, nutrition, health awareness and economic development were provided, then the future of Afghanistan could only be brighter and better.
Esra Karatash Alpay, Istanbul, Turkey
Afghanistan is a buffer country. That means it will always be a pawn in the great game, which is called "grab all the oil" nowadays, and no one will ever give two pins for the population, who will continue to be misruled by puppet governments.
Neville Collins, France (ex-UK)
I think it will become environmentally drained, and its people milked dry by large multinational companies. These companies will take all the good land and then move on to the next area/country, just like they're doing right now.
James, Huddersfield, England
Hopefully Afghanistan will not give into Western pressure and end up a country where everything revolves around money, greed and exploitation.
Gareth Phillips, Carlisle, UK
If history has taught us anything, it is that countries ravaged by many years of war and occupation are able to recover only if a strong and powerful leader unites the Afghan people. Unfortunately, I do not see the strength and charisma in Hamid Kharazi at this moment.
Siavash, Brookline, MA
I think education should be the most important priority. And remember Afghanistan is a beautiful country and tourism will play a big part to stabilize its economy.
Tahir, Karachi, Pakistan
Afghanistan/Iraq/Iran in 10 yeas will be right where they are today - bickering over power and money, roughly the same place the hard heads in Ireland will be in 10 years.
Jim Thomas, Falcon, CO USA
The future of Afghanistan will be bright. We will cooperate and support the new Afghanistan.
Abdulwahab Safi, Kunar, Afghanistan
The divergent views expressed range from optimism to complete desperation. I assume each contribution expresses a little of the truth. Without an economy, irrespective of security, the serious money will never invest in Afghanistan. It sounds so self-defeating yet as long as there's hope there's a chance.
I lived in Kabul for almost 6 years, 1973-79 and came to know the country and the people quite well. I have closely followed events since then. A state of anarchy after Russians withdrew, restoration of some "order" by Taleban, and imposition of a despicable "system". Had it not been for 9/11, the Taleban would still be in control with the world shutting their eyes on this country. Afghan people have suffered a great deal. Many of the educated and professionals left the country. The international community must not abandon Afghanistan. Focus on education, medical care and health. Build up roads, provide water and power.
Dr R N Srivastava, New Delhi, India
I am an Afghan educated in the western world. My high school was in France and my college years were in the US. When will Nato troops or (the US military occupiers) stop warlords such as Fahim, Dostam, Mohammad Atta, Quanooni, so that people who have been educated in the west can go back home and feel safe to rebuilt Afghanistan?
Rafi, Virginia, USA
From BBCPersian.com: I arrived back here from Afghanistan yesterday. The country is changing. But what makes the situation really heartrending are the bare foot children who are begging. This is a very common scene. If you give money to one of them, suddenly 10 to 20 of them will arrive. The authorities should do something about it as soon as possible. Afghanistan is a country with a lot of tourist attractions. But the existence of beggars on the streets in Herat and other cites has changed the face of the cities. The Afghan nation has experienced war and homelessness. This should make them more vigilant to choose somebody in the elections who can really serve the nation and support democracy.
Ezatollah, Tehran, Iran
From BBCPersian.com: In most areas of Afghanistan there is instability and insecurity and this can prevent many people from taking part in the elections. The government should put security top of its list so that people can come to vote without any fear.
Mojtaba Akhavan, Herat, Afghanistan
From BBCPersian.com: I love my country. Besides physical devastations, the mentality and the soul of the people has also been hurt because of long wars and crimes. If we want to secure a bright future for the country, the mercenary politicians and human rights violators in the past 30 years should be punished. Failure to do this is a big betrayal to the nation.
Sediq Mosadeq, Kabul, Afghanistan
From BBCPersian.com: The parliamentary elections are like a bridge towards freedom and democracy and progress. This election is like a test for the nation and if they come out of it victoriously they can guarantee a bright future for themselves. But if they fail, it means a bad future for this oppressed nation. I hope the election will be healthy but in some provinces some powerful warlords want to enter the parliament by the using their money or power. Afghanistan does not need a parliament with these sort of people in it. Morteza Ahamdi, Herat, Afghanistan
Afghanistan's problems are multiplied by the dependency on farming, and especially opium cultivation, of most of the population. The most sensible proposal I have heard recently for Afghanistan is that instead of wasting millions of dollars spraying herbicide on poppy, Western backers should buy up the crop and have it processed locally into medicinal products, such as morphine. As the author pointed out, the Third World is crying out for cheap pain killers to ease the suffering of people dying of diseases such as malaria, TB, AIDS, etc. By purchasing the poppy crop and manufacturing morphine in Afghanistan it would 'at a stroke' reduce the flow of heroin to the West to a trickle and by making farmers wealthier, deprive the Warlords of their illicit funds, thereby strengthening the central government and provide an alternative source of income for urban Afghans. It would also provide a source of revenue for the government of Afghanistan.
David, London, UK
Education should be the most important priority of the Afghan government, donor countries and the Afghan people. It is the way to freedom, independence from all life hardships and warlords. Help the universities of Afghanistan as well as the schools.
Wais Ahmed, London, England
I have just read every article on Afghanistan on the BBC website and I see that this is a very divided and helpless country. The UN needs to take the lead role in building this proud Islamic nation and I feel it will get worse the longer the United States try to run things there. How can a free thinking Government be justified if it taking its orders from the White House?
Bryan Gray, Edinburgh
I respect Karzai's opinion that security strategy needs a rethink and understand his reluctance to having fences around portions of his country. Way too often in this day and age it seems people think laws are to be broken and fences to be crawled under when in truth people should be trying to change the things they don't like instead of finding ways around them. I like the diversity and pride of the Afghan people and don't think they are in any danger of becoming a cultural melting pot like the US. Given the apparent need to keep an eye on groups like Al Qaeda from here on out, I'd like to ask what ordinary US citizens can do to best help the people of Afghanistan and of course to wish them a successful election.
Dale Lanan, Longmont, Colorado, USA
For the first time the Afghan nation come together and I believe we will have a bright future. Four years ago Afghans demand was security but today is better education and economy.
Nasir Samit, Heart, Afghanistan
I was born Afghanistan, Kabul. I am a trainee solicitor by profession. I am conducting immigration cases. I have recently fought for the right of an Afghan woman who claimed asylum in the UK. She was the victim of forced marriage. She has been granted full refugee status in the UK. I would like to fight for the rest of Afghan women who suffer in the hands of the unfair society. It would be interesting if you could cover in the subject of forced marriages in Afghanistan.
Soheela Aziz, London, UK
I wish for the people of Afghanistan to enjoy enduring peace as it is the only key to economic development. Without peace, people cannot rebuild their lives, their family. May your life be better soon. In my Christian way, I wish you all be blessed by the God you believe in.
Generosa Balocating, Tokyo, Japan
One thing I can say from visiting Pakistan last year is that whilst there was no evidence of poverty there was evidence of a lot of males with little to do. My feeling is that by offering the religious people of the Pakistan-Afghan border a full education alongside economic assistance will move them away from the feeling that they are oppressed and have no future. Both Pakistan and Afghanistan have a moral obligation to stamp out the imams who are only interested in spreading more war and chaos in the region and to give the current generation every opportunity to flourish within both Islamic republics. I hope the western business men play a large part in this as I feel they have to be blamed for some of the economic poverty both in this region and Africa.
Gordon Wheeler, Reading, England
Thank you for having Afghan Day. In July 2004, I went to Afghanistan after 15 years, Kabul and Kandahar both, in Kandahar I saw hundreds of women and young girls study English, IT and other subjects, in very difficult conditions, there is almost no help available to them Where are all the promises from the West to give the women outside Kabul practical help!
As an atmosphere of distrust and pessimism is shading in Afghanistan and is growing more serious everyday, I don't think my country will have a bright future. The forthcoming parliamentary and provincial councils elections will fail to be hold in a fair and democratic manner since the attacks carried out by the anti-government elements (the Taleban) are in a steady rise and that the government does not pay attention to the views of the political parties in the country. I can't hope that the future parliament will include real representatives of people. However, I am still having a little hope and trust God Almighty!
Abdollah, Herat, Afghanistan
What difference are these elections going to make to the life of ordinary Afghani? Are people of Afghanistan more interested in basic foods and medicines then in elections? Is there any difference to the life of the ordinary Afghani as compared to the time of Taliban regime? Well I will say I don't think there is any change. That time was for war lords this time it is again the war lords.
Shoaib Altaf Cheema, Sydney, Australia
Being a native of Afghanistan and residing in Australia for the past 12 years I returned to Afghanistan at the start of this year. During my six week visit I came across many people in similar circumstances as these six individual. I wish them all the best of luck with their endeavours in life and hope to return soon my self to give them a much needed helping hand. As the old saying goes "where there is a will there is a way" and as an eternal optimist I believe life in Afghanistan will get better.
Habib, Melbourne, Australia
I've spent half an hour browsing through the "Day in Afghanistan" and I'd just like to say what an innovative and truly informative way of reporting it is. I've learnt so much more than I could have done from a simple news report by a western journalist, and hope that the BBC will do more of the same!
Edwukin Nissen, Oxford
I spent 7 months in Afghanistan last year and I enjoyed every day. I made friends with many Afghans and I miss them very much. The Afghans are a powerful and proud people and I had nothing but total respect for them.
John Hayward, Ely, Cambs
I think democracy and peace can only be built on strong internal institutional framework, the international community and America for this case can only support such institutions. When external forces start to dictate on what is seen to be good for the indigenous people that is when resistance comes in. The perception that the west is trying to impose its ideologies to the entirely Islamic land.
Emmanuel Opio, Tororo, Uganda
I don't think this coming election will change any thing. There is simply just too many problems to resolve here and the USA are not putting any priority here at the moment. The focus is still in Iraq. When you have no oil or useful resources, help will certainly come slowly. It will be a long, long, long time before we can see something that is significant there.
Robert Liang, KL, Malaysia
I believe the peace, security and reconstruction in our country is temporary. Our security lies on the international forces in our country. Yet, you can't find any area that the security is ensured by Afghan national police or army. Reconstruction is also momentary, if we have aid from the world community and human-loving countries, we can asphalt some roads or build some apartments. When the aid stops, the reconstruction stops too. Our government is not yet able to provide its own budget, how can it be able to provide us reconstructions and development after the World Community and US leaves Afghanistan. On the other hand, as long as the US or the World community stays in Afghanistan - they will, for sure, consider their own interest. Afghanistan will be that dependent to the US and the World community. Considering that many soldiers escape from national army every day and people are more concerned of the police in their area than robbers and Afghanistan doesn't have its own financial base, how does the country ensure its security after the US leaves Afghanistan? Or if the US stays until Afghanistan stands on its feet, how long does it last that Afghanistan stand on its feet?
Maysam, Mazar-e Sharif, Afghanistan
Being ex-military, and very interested in modern history, I say this, politicians should look to the past to show how the future will be. There is no solution to the problem in Afghanistan, countless numbers of westerners lives have been lost for ideologies far greater than that of the USA Russia, or Britain. No matter what short term solution they may think they have, in this part of the world, someone will always change it. This is a way of life, has been for thousands of years, it is not regime change you need it is culture, and that just will not happen. Western forces will be in Afghanistan for decades to come and the loss of life will only increase, of that there is no doubt, like communism, liberalism, socialism, democracy, cannot be forced on people, they have to accept that it is something they want, they do not have that mandate anywhere in the Middle East, even Saudi Arabia, will eventually ask the Americans to leave, as the Royal Family change their view, occupancy does not work, and history tells us that. Britain has been in the country for 300 years and it has not changed, so beware, the third world war will happen before this is all sorted out.
Jim Evans, Brighton, UK
Afghanistan's future is entirely in the hands of Afghans, which includes how cleverly they use the foreign assistance that is available. The international community would be delighted when the role of foreign NGOs is reduced and real control of international donor money is handed to Afghans. But the current reality is that there simply isn't the institutional capacity within all sections of the Afghan Government to budget or spend money effectively. So, my suggestion to Afghans would be to make a realistic assessment of the country's capabilities, focus on building institutions as much as infrastructure, stop wasting time with complaints and start serious planning for an independent Afghan future.
James, Kabul, Afghanistan
How can people say troops are the answer to peace? How would you like a group of strangers in your backyard telling you what they think you should be doing? Do we think we know what is best for the countries of this world? Is Christian and Western living so good and exciting? I live in the USA, or should I say I am stuck in this USA.
Brian Sivers, Astoria, Oregon, USA
Well this is an interesting question, but everyone knows what's happening there. Afghanistan has no future at all, unless there is not a government of the people of Afghanistan. The puppet government of Mr Karzai is not doing what they have to. There should be equal rights for all the ethnic groups not just for Pashtuns. They should consider them Afghan as well and build good relations with them to give them a hand to build the country which has suffered at the hands of foreigners.
Qorban Ali, Melbourne, Australia
I wish the best future for our unlucky country in the past 30 years and also I want international organizations to continue their help for Afghanistan. We are thankful to those who are for Afghanistan's security, also most importantly after a few days we are going to have a parliament in Afghanistan.
Khalis Ahmad Noori, Kabul, Afghanistan
Hope makes you go forward in life and Afghans have that hope and they strongly trust President Hamid Karzai. We have a long and difficult path towards a really democratic state and we all Afghans believe the future of our country will be bright. Who thought we would be able to pass the presidential elections so successfully? The whole world was surprised because now Afghans are determined that they and only they can change their country. Step by step our country will change as every water drip makes a sea we will change our country into a democratic country.
Yasmeen, Kabul, Afghanistan
The world community should do more to create conditions to bring peace to whole Afghanistan. At present the Karzai government is only administering the capital Kabul only and is also under the influence of the warlords. The international community should make sure that the Pashtuns are given representation in high offices in Kabul.
Aftab Ali Ghazi, Chitral, Pakistan
Fundamentally all depends on the capacity of Afghanistan to develop an economy of its own, as one day the NGO's will leave. Working with students at Kabul University the determination is clear, yet the greatest hindering factor is the hype surrounding security. The worst problem we've ever had is kittens in our office. Until the reputation issue is solved, how can people invest? And until there is investment, how can there be sound work?
Mike Dawson, Kabul, Afghanistan, (from Manchester, UK)
The future of Afghanistan lies in the hands of its men. It may be hard to accept in a world where we pretend the weak are strong and the stupid are smart, but only the men can cede power and only the men can police equal protection.
Jeff Bynum, Ogden, UT USA
The key to the success of Afghanistan will be the rise of a strong leader that will be accepted and respected by all the Afghan factions and yet one who will be able to rein in the foreigners in order to preserve what is left of Afghanistan's integrity while helping the Afghan peoples to become less cynical and accepting of the richness of the diversity of their culture and values without oppressing opposition.
Jerry Copeland, Santa Maria, California, USA
I think the poor country will yet see another disease rise amongst its beauty, but only this time, it will be obscure and hidden. As an Afghan, I can say that I'm grateful that Afghanistan is being helped, but I can also say that it is being infected with a corrupted aim and I'm truly confused as to what the future holds for Afghanistan, if there is any future.
Asma, California, US
Afghanistan will certainly have to be divided on account of ethnicity in order to accomplish security in the region. Thus, Pashtun-based areas acceding to Pakistan and Shia majority areas to Iran. Afghanistan, as it stands geographically, will continue to be a major headache for countries surrounding her.
Asif, London, UK
As long as Afghanistan has insincere neighbours like Pakistan, foreign interference and puppet governments, it will never be peaceful in true meanings. The world must help Afghanistan rebuild itself, but not interfere in its affairs.
M A, Canada
I am a Afghani Hindu, a few of us exist in our little community, and so far there is no peace in the region, but with the ousting of the Taleban regime, many of us can walk outside without fear of being killed.
Ajit, Kandahar, Afghanistan
What really has changed since the fall of Taleban regime is that the world has recognised Afghanistan for what it was before but now with a pro-Western government installed whose influence is limited to Kabul, with warlords having control over most of Afghanistan, and Afghanistan again topping as the world's largest opium producer which it was not during the Taleban. And my question to the Afghan government; what real change has taken place with all the international aid since three years? Is there any accountability?
Altamash, Muscat, Oman
Afghanistan has developed a lot both economically and socially since the fall of the Taleban. Five years ago who would have thought a woman could stand for presidential elections and a woman could be a governor in Afghanistan? The forthcoming elections will bring more security as well as political stability in Afghanistan. My question to the member of Afghanistan's government is that Afghanistan has always been a victim of foreign interference. Is Afghanistan strong enough to stand against these interferences in the forthcoming elections?
Mohammad Qassim, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
I think that, aside from the obvious security issues, a ministry should be created to enlist graduate engineering students from across the world to do in internship for a year (at UN expense) to work out how to get water to villages. When they can learn to feed themselves again and get their crops thriving again (grapes etc-not poppies) a renewed pride can be felt. Then new legislation to guarantee that all landowners pay their workers commensurate with the landowners' income.
Steve, Les Molieres, France
I've seen much rebuilding and life is getting better over there since the Taleban fell. People are returning home. The country need much more support in all areas. What plans you have for the next few years and how are you going to teach it? What about the 'passportizing' of women?
Uayda, Kabul, Afghanistan
To me it seems that renaissance started in Afghanistan the day it was liberated. It is slow but obvious. I can see some things happening there and taking shape that are amazing especially regarding women. A good leadership and political will sure take Afghanistan into the twenty first century as a modern progressive nation. I wish them good luck.
Agha Ata, Houston, USA
The international community has been keeping a minute helping hand in Afghanistan for about four years and there have been positive changes in the Afghan society since then. The international community has a responsibility not only to Afghanistan, but to itself to bring a sustainable peace and stability in Afghanistan. I would ask a member of the Afghanistan's government to help and facilitate the international community to do their best to better Afghanistan.
Ferooz, Seattle, USA
At the moment Afghanistan's security which is an important factor for peace and prosperity depends on foreign troops, so as long as they are in the country there is hope that the country will have a bright future, but corruption and the warlords in the government are the big challenges Afghanistan faces.
Inayat Noori, Borehamwood, UK
On 4 January 2004 the representatives of the people of Afghanistan unanimously adopted a new constitution for their country. It is considered to be one of the best and most progressive constitutions in the world. Our people are determined to once again prove that they are peace loving people by going to polling stations in large numbers. Looking at all these success stories why should we doubt that we will have a bright future. But, what will we do with our neighbours? They never wanted and will never want to see Afghanistan a stable and peaceful country.
Rohullah Niazi, Kabul, Afghanistan
As an Afghan woman, I do not see any meaningful improvement in my country nor any improvement in the lot of women. Seems to me that helping us to remove our veils was the only motivation to oust the Taleban. What good did that do? I am a doctor and even though I live in the US I still prefer to cover myself, if not in a Burkah, I do still wear a Chador. But is that what all this bloodshed was about? Between the UK and US governments' billions have been spent. Countless lives lost. For what? My Chador, my Burkah ?
Nelum Yousefzai, Virginia, USA
The future of Afghanistan mainly depends on the result of the coming parliamentary elections and if Afghans elect their true representatives so that they fight for their rights. Warlords pose a serious threat to the future of Afghanistan. Warlords have now turned to drug mafia activities and if the government is not smart enough to take tough measures to tackle this issue then this could cause problems.
Hameed, Kabul, Afghanistan
Is post-war reconstruction proceeding fast enough? Are new homes, roads, schools, hospitals, offices and factories being built? Is Kabul being rebuilt?
James Wild, London, UK
No one denies the Taleban regime was an obstacle for freedom and democracy, but for decades all the world has forgot Afghanistan as a whole country. The US blames the Taleban for protecting Osama Bin Laden but they don't see that Afghanistan is a new democracy which needs the support of all the world to reach its goals.
Julian Pallares, Bogota, Colombia
As long as we have the Americans on our side - and I hope we do in the future - to keep the pressure not just on our neighbours but on our government, we should be OK.
Javead, Vancouver, Canada
Our braveness is our biggest enemy! Us Afghans need to realise that we are in 2005 and not 1905. It is about the time we start playing political games like our neighbours are. I believe a bright future holds only with political stability and this also brings economic stability.
Jalil Alkozai, London, UK
The warlords have no interest whatsoever in the betterment of Afghanis. Afghanistan, like Iraq, is broken down into castes and sects. They see themselves as Uzbekis, Turkmenis or Pashtuns but not Afghans. A sad state of a very proud culture.
Sunny, Lahore, Pakistan
The future of Afghanistan is extremely unpredictable. This is has always been the case. I personally do not believe that Afghanistan can truly prosper when tribalism is the biggest obsession of it's inhabitants.
Daud, London, UK
The future of the country depends on the people and main state actors of the country. Afghanistan is heading towards peace and prosperity and has had incredible achievements in terms of exercising democracy in the country. However, some neighbouring countries still interfere in Afghanistan's affairs and insecurity also remains a nightmare for the entire nation.
Ahmed Ali Ahmadi, Kandahar, Afghanistan
Afghanistan's future depends on the success of the elections. The people are hopeful for free and fair elections. I am worrying about the warlords all over the country who are candidates. They still have power and people fear they will not be fair. I have visited most of the provinces in Afghanistan. The people insist that the world community should put pressure on neighbouring countries, especially Pakistan, to stop the insurgents attacks in southern and south-eastern Afghanistan.
Mohammad Nasir Zazai, Kabul, Afghanistan