As the US noose tightens around Afghanistan, it's worth sparing a thought for the Afghan people. They have already been pushed back into the middle-ages by a regime they did not elect. After years of Cold War-inspired conflict, their land has been devastated. Their towns and cities are crumbling, hospitals and schools barely function, and a generation of Afghan children are growing up severely malnourished. Almost every trace of modern civilisation, except for the latest weapons, has been abolished by the Taleban. Now, for no discernable fault of theirs, the people of Afghanistan will face an onslaught from the world's most formidable fighting machine. No doubt the attacks will be directed away from civilians, but there are bound to be civilian casualties. In addition, the Taleban's reaction to the attacks is likely to be a further tightening of control on the lives of the Afghan people. There are other dangers as well. Even if the US succeeds in either capturing or eliminating Osama bin Laden, it will leave behind a bitter and perhaps permanently anti-American Afghan people. The Afghans are a proud people who through their history have never taken kindly to attackers. If a medieval, bitter Afghanistan is not be a permanent threat, it is important that the United States and the rest of the world community make a concerted effort to rebuild Afghanistan and bring that nation into the 21st century. There is a precedent for this. After an equally destructive regime in Cambodia and a long drawn out cold war tussle brought untold misery to the Khmer people, the international community through the United Nations played a major role in reconstructing the country. Besides aid, the UN played a significant role in setting up democratic institutions and ushering in elected governments. The path of democracy has not always been smooth in Cambodia, but at least its foundations have been laid. No less an international effort needs to be made in Afghanistan. The Taleban government has to be dislodged, and Afghan society has to be demilitarised. The UN should be provided with the means to set up an interim administration and run the country until conditions are ripe for the Afghan people to chose the kind of government they wish to live under.