Certain events divide moments in time into 'before' and 'after'. Hiroshima ushered in the age of the nuclear threat; the fall of the Berlin Wall marked the end of the Cold War.
The tragic events of 11 September 2001 and the subsequent US-led military action against Afghanistan's Taliban regime and al-Qa'ida thrust Afghanistan into the international spotlight and finally placed it on the agenda of senior policy makers worldwide. What the media and policy makers discovered was a country ravaged by conflict and already in the grip of one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world.
As a rainy spring - the first after years of drought - brings out the blossoms in Afghanistan's orchards, many questions remain unanswered about the future of this battered country.
There is a considerable degree of confusion both among the humanitarian community and the Afghan population over the various military forces present in Afghanistan, particularly with regard to their respective mandates and humanitarian support/liaison operations.
The values of democracy, justice and freedom are stated goals of the foreign policies of Western states. These are the same values that the terrorist attacks of 11 September challenged. They are also the values that should inform refugee protection policies.
The Tragedy of 11 September became a turning point in the history of a country thousands of kilometres away from New York, a nation with no direct involvement in what had happened to the Twin Towers.
In Afghanistan, unlike in most other humanitarian emergencies, the international community's focus, in the wake of the events of 11 September, was on those at risk inside the country.
The events of 11 September 2001 had unexpected repercussions for refugees in far away places. Most dramatic of all was the refocusing of international attention on the plight of the Afghan people.
In the aftermath of 11 September, governments around the world have turned their attention to combating the threat of global terrorism.
This question, raised countless times in the post-World War II, post-colonial and post-cold war periods, is taking new shape in Afghanistan today especially among donor states and international organisations concerned about Afghanistan.
"Security", the philosopher John Stuart Mill wrote in 1861, "is the most vital of all interests."
While the international community expects that the population of Afghan refugees will eventually return home, the equally numerous Palestinian refugees see no prospect of return.