The 9/11 Decade: In Afghanistan, Dashed Hopes And Fears Of A New Civil War
Initially, the overthrow of the Taliban had given hope to many Afghans. But 10 years after the Al Qaeda attacks on the U.S. set off a bloody chain of events, the Afghan people seem to have accepted a fate where certain troubles are always bound to return.
KABUL – Waheed Mujda was working at the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs - for the Taliban - when Western coalition forces entered Kabul. "I remember how people welcomed them," he recalls. "It was a mix of apprehension and of jubilation. But mostly of jubilation."
Though part of Mullah Omar's regime, Mujda says he was "aware that it was becoming necessary to have a new regime. The country was going down. It was almost dead."
Having found a new career in post-Taliban Afghanistan as a political analyst, Mujda says a decade later so much hope and good intentions by British and U.S. forces have been squandered. "I can tell you that almost 10 years after, not many people trust them. We are waiting for the foreign soldiers to withdraw."
Still, the future may be even more grim without the Western presence. "We are preparing ourselves to face a new civil war," Mujda concludes.
A diplomat working in Afghanistan is no more optimistic: "The peace process we've initiated with lots of fanfare has completely gone out of control, but to what extent is still unknown to us'.
Abdul Ali Seraj, the president of the National Coalition for Dialogue with Tribes of Afghanistan (NCDTA), says there are two fundamental problems: the rehabilitation of the warlords on one side and the tremendous cost of reconstruction on the other. "The money invested on military spending is 10 to 15 times higher than the money dedicated to development aid," he says from his house in Kabul.
Seraj still shows off a framed 2002 letter from George W. Bush in which the US president says he is going to follow Seraj's advice and focus on the crucial dynamics of the NCDTA. "They didn't pay attention to any of it, and now the country is in a sorry state," he says.
On a recent day at the University of Kabul, some students are sitting on the grass and studying for their coming exams. They come from all over the country and have chosen the capital city's campus "because here you have the best teachers, financial means and working prospects', explains Zeeshan, an economy student.
He recalls Sep. 11 vividly: "When the twin towers collapsed, I was at home in my village in the Ghazni province. We didn't have television. We listened to the radio, but secretly because the Talibans tried to keep us from getting information," Zeeshan recalled. "But we all knew what had happened and knew right away that this attack was going to change something for our country. I remember my father and brothers whispering in the living room. They were sad for the Americans but they said that the international community might finally come back in Afghanistan and save us'.
Zeeshan is from the Hazara ethnic group, which was slaughtered step by step by the Taliban. "When the American soldiers arrived in our village, we all went outside. Kids were running behind their convoy, laughing. It was moving to see all those military people who were finally attending to our completely wrecked country. Well, now, I can tell you that their arrival didn't change much in my home village. The Taliban have now reorganized themselves and launch attacks almost every day. That's why my family moved to Kabul. For now, we can't go home".
Jamila , who comes from Mazar-i-Sharif in northern Afghanistan, agrees. "We lost our illusions very quickly," she recalled. "We understood that (the coalition forces) were not here to help us rebuild our country but to hunt down the Taliban".
Jamila wears a long purple veil, casually perched upon her hair. "The Taliban scare me of course. I was a teenager when they ruled the country, and I could barely go out. But what I fear most is to see the warlords coming back. All those criminals who were rehabilitated to work as auxiliaries to the US forces," says the student.
Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, one of the top seven jihadi commanders from the 1980's who's often blamed for his violent past, expects more bloodshed. "If nothing changes in the next three years, we'll have a civil war for sure."
Now a Member of Parliament, Sayyaf is one of the warlords who carries the most sway with President Hamid Karzai. According to several Kabul-based diplomats, Sayyaf has the military means to step into the vacuum after 2014, the scheduled year of the withdrawal of the international military forces. "And," says Waheed Mujda, "he's not the only one."
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Photo - isafmedia