Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Afghans speak

The BBC website has extracts of interviews with four Afghan men from four different provinces - Balkh, Herat, Kandahar and Ghazni (see map). Excerpts:

Afghans speak: Dangers and security

The BBC asked people from four Afghan provinces for their views on security there and the impact of foreign troops.

KANDAHAR PROVINCE: Anwar Imitiyaz, student

The first thing people need here is security. People are unwilling to go out and about, even to go shopping. ...

This is the problem the security forces face: they can't distinguish insurgents from ordinary city dwellers. Insurgents come to the city, put on city clothes and fade in by imitating the culture of those in the city.

But really these insurgents resent me just as much if not more than they hate Americans. ... This is because I am educated and I work for a foreign organisation. ...

The insurgency for Kandaharis means more than bomb blasts. It means shooting, kidnap and robbery. Foreign troops make no difference to that. What can they do? If anything, they cause problems. All of this happens because foreign troops are present. I don't believe they provide any security to the people.

The fight against the insurgents is also managed poorly. Foreign troops and Afghan troops don't co-ordinate well. Every activity being run inside and outside the city is directed by foreign troops....

GHAZNI PROVINCE: M Zaki Shahamat, journalist

Ghazni is a mixed province home to many of Afghanistan's different ethnic tribes. We have Hazara, Pashtun and many Sikhs as well. Life should be harmonious.

But the Taleban have announced an insurgency in this province.

While national and international organisations do try to reconstruct life here, Ghazni does not get the kind of help that Kandahar and Helmand does. There is little comparison when looking at the level of aid.

There are American troops stationed in the centre of the province on the outskirts of the city. It is very difficult to see what development work they have undertaken. ...

Foreign troops do very little in the outlying districts. When they do get out of the city, they do not aim to provide security to the people. They sometimes carry out unpopular operations. At night they search homes for suspected terrorists or foreigners.

They have their own strategy.

BALKH PROVINCE: Naqeeb Poya, television producer

... In Mazar-e-Sharif city, there is strong security presence. The police are supported by the Polish forces and they are well equipped.

Because of this relative safety, when I go to other provinces I really do feel the fear.

International forces are needed and I would vote for them to stay for longer. They are a very important part of the area. ...

HERAT PROVINCE: Anonymous man

Life in Herat has changed a lot since a year ago. The security situation has deteriorated. ..

Seven years ago, people were extremely positive about the deployment of international forces and everyone felt like the bad days had come to an end.

I am thankful to the international forces who sacrifice their lives to bring peace for us. I, however, believe that those deployed in Herat did not manage as well as they could have if they had better understanding of the situation.

The position of international community in general and foreign forces in particular is not at all clear to me. There is neither a clear strategy on fighting the so-called terrorism nor on assisting Afghan government.

The Taleban insurgency is not the major concern for people. It is general lawlessness that has put people on high alert. Everyone is so stressed. ... (link)
Also on the BBC website there is a video of an interview with The Kite Runner author Khaled Hosseini (pictured, with friends). He seems to have much more faith in NATO forces than most of the men quoted above. Mind you, Hosseini does not live in Afghanistan; his childhood was spent there but he has lived in the US since he was a teenager.

At any rate, he makes an important observation about the situation of women in Afghanistan:
I think it's undeniable that the status of women has changed in pockets - particularly in an urban place like Kabul...

But in many parts of the country the situation is still dismal. Particularly in the very tribal, conservative regions where women are still - and this is not something the Taliban brought about; this goes back centuries - where women are still invisible from public life or they still live in seclusion ... (link)
Over at Cafe Babel, we find a short transcript of an interview with one Mujahideen Khan in the Panjshir Valley which Estonian journalists recorded last year. Khan is a former jihadi fighter who claims to have fought against Mullah Omar and Osama Bin Laden. Excerpts:
The Taliban are not human - they kill themselves with bombs! Meanwhile, US forces were bombing our provinces, killing our people whilst thinking they were killing the Taliban, thus paving the ground for the latter. We do not know who the Taliban is right now - maybe we will face them again. ...

When Hamid Karzai became president in 2001, we thought Afghanistan would become a great, reconstructed country. I think that the UN didn’t need to come and help. They should have set up a good interim government in Afghanistan led by Afghans, not foreigners. There are more bad things in Afghanistan than there used to be. ... (link)