It’s a sight that isn’t seen often in Afghanistan — water flooding an area, the result of recent rainfall in Kandahar.

It’s a sight that isn’t seen often in Afghanistan — water flooding an area, the result of recent rainfall in Kandahar. (Kevin Dougherty / S&S)

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — Recent rains in Afghanistan have some people wondering if the drought that has bedeviled the nation for years is ending.

In the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, about 3¼ inches of rain fell in Kandahar over a two-day period, said Air Force Staff Sgt. Wes Brogan, a meteorologist with the 25th Air Support Operational Squadron. The rest of the week saw traces of precipitation.

“We got hit with a massive low-pressure system that stalled out over Afghanistan,” said Brogan, who is assigned to Kandahar Air Base. “It passed really slowly, and it took a long time to move out.”

Rainfall for December was four times the normal amount for the month.

More rain and snow fell last week in southern and eastern Afghanistan, the region hardest hit by the seven-year drought. Out to the west, the city of Herat got dumped with about 6 inches of snow Thursday.

Military forecasters in Afghanistan have asked the Air Force Combat Climatology Center in Asheville, N.C., whether all this precipitation means the end of the drought. They at least want to know if wetter days are ahead, beyond the coming rainy season, which is typically March and April.

The late-December storm hit “pretty much everywhere, but I think we got the worst of it,” said Air Force Capt. Jodi Bergan, commander of the Kandahar weather unit.

North of Kandahar Air Base, the Tamak River rose so high the water was nearly touching the bottom of the main bridge leading into town.

Meanwhile, near Kabul, rainwater filled some smaller streams that are usually bone-dry this time of year.

Afghans say “this is a sign from God,” said Khoshhal Murad, a United Nations interpreter in Kabul.

When the Taliban were in power, Murad said, some of its leaders grew so frustrated by the drought they randomly rounded up dozens of people, drove them into the desert and demanded they pray for rain. It didn’t come.

“You can’t force people to pray,” Murad said. “They should have gone out in the desert themselves.”

Murad said his father told him this is the most rain he has seen in more than 30 years. Another Afghan in Kandahar heard it was the most rain in nearly 100 years, though such claims are impossible to substantiate because of inadequate record-keeping.

As recently as October, the Famine Early Warning Systems Network predicted the drought would continue and that serious food and water shortages would result. The network receives funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development.

By his own recollection, Murad said it’s been at least a decade since so much rain fell in so little a time.

Some Afghans, a somewhat superstitious lot, blame the drought on the Taliban, which seized power in September 1996. People soon grew unhappy with the hard-line religious government and, consequently, Allah was unhappy, Murad said.

The recent success of the presidential election has turned frowns into smiles, he added.

“In the last 10 years,” Murad said, “there was very little or no rain, and that was because of the Taliban. Absolutely. Everybody connects [the drought] to the Taliban.”

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