Decades of conflict—civil insurrection, a decade-long Soviet invasion, the rise and ouster of the Taliban regime and an ongoing low-level insurgency—destroyed many of Afghanistan's institutions.
But even as national and international forces continue to battle resurgent Taliban forces in parts of the country, a widespread program continues to rebuild the country.
Japan is a major contributor to this effort, pumping some US$1.8 billion into the country since 2002, helping rebuild or construct infrastructure such as roads and airports, rehabilitate the important agricultural sector and assist in other sectors such as health and education.
JICA President Sadako Ogata, who has long been involved in Afghan developments as a diplomat and head of the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) which helped care for more than six million refugees, said Afghanistan represents "perhaps the most challenging assignment of my entire career."
JICA staff, experts and national personnel are also forced to leading both a challenging personal and professional life, enjoying few social amenities such as visits to restaurants or friends and having to travel most places in armored guards and protected by armed security officials.
Since farmers established some of the world's very first communities some 50,000 years ago, Afghanistan has undergone a turbulent history. After decades of recent civil conflict, the country is trying to again piece itself together again with significant assistance from Japan.
The Afghan capital has swelled from a small town of less than one million to a chaotic sprawl of more than five million. Japanese experts are working on a master plan to more than double the area of the capital, creating new satellite townships and business areas as part of a $35.5 billion project.
The number of school children in Afghanistan has rocketed from 900,000 to more than 6 million since 2001. But more than half of school age children are still not in the classroom and education remains one of the most urgent, and controversial, of projects.
International cooperation is a buzz word in development circles. Japan, South Korea, Iran and Afghanistan recently forged a particularly close association for a single project to help improve vocational training and bring needed skills to the country.
The majority of Afghanistan's population lives in rural areas and are involved in agriculture. Like most other things, however, agriculture was badly hit during the years of war. JICA is helping to rehabilitate rural communities and agriculture including improving the country's important rice crop.