Indistinct figures loomed through the murk of the Kabul night, the permanent dust haze reducing headlight visibility to almost nil as our vehicle crawled, somewhat hesitantly, through one of the many checkpoints on the city outskirts. A cursory glance inside satisfied the armed police on duty and we are waved on in moments, as was the heavy traffic in front of us and that which followed in our wake. We were entering the metropolis from the direction of Sarobi, the road behind us snaking all the way back to Jalalabad and the Pakistan border.
The scenario was exactly the same when I arrived in Kabul from Kunduz at sunset a few weeks earlier — so it came as no surprise that militants were able to penetrate the so-called ‘ring of steel’ surrounding the city to carry out their recent coordinated attacks on selected targets. It was also no surprise that President Hamid Karzai blamed the situation on Nato intelligence failure without mentioning Afghan forces or his own intelligence network and, even less of a surprise, that fingers were promptly pointed towards the Haqqani network and Pakistan. Where the surprise lies, however, is that almost everyone who should be both concerned and informed continues to ignore the blatant truth, which is that the shadow play comprising Afghan politics and foreign occupation has undergone a complete volte-face, in that the majority of the population outside of Kabul want the Taliban back in the driving seat.
Shocking as this may sound to the uninitiated, it is perfectly understandable if you happen to be an Afghan villager with peace and justice in mind: Taliban-dispensed justice may be bloody but it is quick. If a murderer is apprehended for instance, then that is that and the same goes for a thief. But if such criminals are brought to government courts, then depending on who they happen to be, justice may, or may not be served. Afghan villagers and, to be fair city dwellers, too, view the government as nothing more than a collection of corrupt braggarts and upstarts who are considered, by them at least, to be war criminals and thieves of the dirtiest order. The established fact that $4.5 billion was flown out of the country last year via Kabul airport and another estimated $8 billion taken out by other means serves to underscore their point.
People throughout the country are eager for the current government to fall, yet not all are so eager to see foreign occupation forces pull out and few believe that they actually will: “If American troops were leaving, then why is it that after 10 years of living in makeshift barracks, they are replacing them with concrete ones right now?” asks an informed source. Adding, “There is also the matter of the multimillion city complex scheduled for construction adjacent to Kabul airport. This is specifically to house foreigners and service contracts — up until 2025 — which have already been given out”.
In the conundrum that is Afghanistan, the shadows are shifting, altering shape and gathering for whatever comes next, which for a sizeable percentage is the dream of a just and peaceful Taliban rule over the chaos of the current ‘now’.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 24th, 2012.