No Way Out? Fear of Dying Among Afghanistan’s Professional Class


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I thought President Obama’s decision to surge troop levels in Afghanistan was a strategic mistake and only deepened the black hole of costs in blood and treasure that the US had already invested and raised expectations in Afghanistan of an equilibrium in their lives that that would tilt more toward jobs and hope than toward despair and political disappointment.

That said, I think that the other tools of statecraft — ranging from development aid to people-to-people exchanges, digital diplomacy to media focused on human rights, all of this — is appropriate and important, even if the results seem less dependable than what some (misguidedly) think can be achieved by sending in troops and tanks. 

Part of me thinks that America now owes the best and brightest in Afghanistan, promising youth who believe in education and modernity, an opportunity to get out of the country. 

As America pulls out of Afghanistan, power throughout much of the country will become more fluid, aggrandized and fought over by resurgent warlords, Taliban networks, and some loyal to the government in Kabul. Many Afghans I speak to and hear from believe that a new, bloody civil war will come — and that those who worked in Kabul, who worked professionally in government, and had interaction with the West will be major targets for Taliban vengeance squads.

Dark days are probably coming for the Afghan people — at least some of them; darker than the bleak situation now.

I maintain correspondence with quite a number of people inside the country — some journalists, some who work in ministries, some students.  I received a letter from a friend whose identity I must protect. 

I am going to post his letter here with permission.  I am not going to edit his letter, though I realize that his English is challenging.  He nonetheless manages to convey very well the tension of what he calls the “real scene” in Afghanistan — and thus will leave the words and grammar as they are.

This guy is brave — and has been very helpful to numerous associates of mine.  He is completely trapped in a situation that he feels could result in his being killed, and in my view he is the kind of person that the United States and Europe need to know and deal with in future years in Afghanistan.. 

From an Anonymous Reader of this blog in Afghanistan:

The Real Scene: My Nightmare in Afghanistan

Mr. Kabir is a 28 year old young man, whose father was originally from Gaghato district of Ghazni province. But his poor luck is that he has a mother of totally different background as she is originally belonging to Pashtun ethnicity of Laghman province.

Mr. Kabir is government employee and has been working as a translator/interpreter in one of government offices in Kabul. With diverse parental background, he has experienced tough conditions and now culturally sensitized to the sore impact of his parents verbal fighting throughout their life since the time he know the bad and good things in life.

Mr. Kabir is a young, educated, open-minded, less religious oriented person who chose to study, work and live in his country together with his parents and still has been living with his mother as he recently lost his father who was suffering from cancer. This young man is
apparently very shy, family oriented, conservative and less developed minded person who is very discreet and has always lived with so much respect and trust to his mother and all people elder than him. So much respect, less motivation and other fear factors which are normal stuff with everyone in their culture have been the main reasons for causing him not to grow faster, not to take advantage of the opportunities came on his way since the fall of the Taliban in last 10 years.

Since he graduated from the university in 2007, he has been working with different NGOs and government offices in Kabul. Five years of working experience have given him nothing yet and he still struggles and couldn’t manage to build a reliable foundation for his future life. In addition, as mentioned before his native province from Mother Side is Laghman and his mother and his mother’s relative are Pashtun.

When he worked for almost two years his mother started to think about his marriage so she forced her son to marry her niece who is totally an uneducated girl, never lived in the city and has been far away grown up in a poor rural village of Laghaman and despite all in an extremist Islamist family in northern district of Laghman province.

After his marriage, Kabir’s in-laws are all now know that Kabir is an interpreter and working with infidels (according to most of Pashtun people living in Afghan villages, they call infidel to anyone who is working and is colleague with Afghan government and foreigners). So they have recently started threatening him to stop working and leave the country unless he faces the music as other interpreters and colleagues of infidels have faced.

They told him to send back their daughter and the baby son who was born only two months ago in Kabul. Now, Kabir is finding himself in a totally disastrous stage of his life.  Shall he leave the country with his family or has to send his wife and 2 month old son back to his in-laws family and also accept beheading by his very close relatives???

The scenario is totally complicated, there are more reasons that why he accepted to marry a rural girl and why still haven’t done anything despite all these threats.

In Kabir’s opinion, less than 10 million Afghan will remain alive in their country until 2020. According to the knowledge he has from the situation in his country and real stories from local people of his Mother province, Taliban will take the control over most parts of Afghanistan and will start killing people, especially those who have worked foreigners and government during past decade.

Some estimations which ISI of Pakistan predicts are as five million Afghans who have worked or had link with the Afghan government shall be killed or imprisoned. More than Five million Afghan will flee their country to the countries other than their neighbors and the remaining number will either chose to stay under Taliban regime or will flee to neighboring countries. Most number of people who are now either working or have link with the current government will lose their lives.

Kabir is one of thousands of those people who is extremely vulnerable and now recent threats have compelled him to think of finding a way out of his native country. On daily basis, Taliban is killing more than fifty Afghans including Afghan security forces and civilians and at least more than five to ten foreigners and anyone who have link or work with the government (visit Pajhwak Afghan News). Death and mortality rate is far higher than the figures which are being reflected by local and international media.

Laghaman province, for example, has recently turned to one of bloodiest area than it never been before. One of Kabir’s relatives who visited him in Kabul told him about the story of their young fellow relative execution scenario that happened in mid-August 2012 in this province.

Faiz Mohammad who has worked for more than five years in Iran has returned forcedly by IRAN security forces, has joined his family six months ago. In recent months he was working for one of concrete brick factory when he met Janan who had been operating for Taliban in Maidani area, around 200-300 meter north of Mehterlam capital of Laghman province.

By taking benefit of his friendship with Faiz Mohammad, Janan was always making his friend to help him with shopping groceries from Mehtarlam for all the group members of Janan who have been engaged in militant activities in the area. Once, Afghan security forces received the report about Janan and the security forces were almost about to capture Janan.

But Faiz Mohammad helped him and covered him with women clothes in a wedding party in their villager’s house. Police searched the house but couldn’t manage to find Janan who had worn women clothes and they remained unsatisfied with the search operation so they called their woman police colleague to search the women’s rooms inside the wedding party.  In this interval, Janan managed to call his Talib colleagues and told them that most likely Faiz Mohammad, his friend has reported about his whereabouts to the Police.

After the call ended, Janan came out from women’s room and opened fire with his gun on police men who were waiting for their women colleague, in retaliation, Janan and three police men are killed. When it was the burial gathering of Janan, Faiz Mohammad, his close friend also took part in the burial gathering. After the burial, Janaan’s friends and Talib colleagues has arrested Faiz Mohammad and blamed him for reporting about Janaan to the police, however, Faiz Mohammad was totally innocent and has just helped him during last months.

Taliban a little far from the cemetery told Faiz Mohammad to call his brothers about to carry his death body from the Besram area where the cemetery was located, later Taliban shot dead Faiz Mohammad and then his brothers carried his dead body. It is one of the examples of how more than fifty people are being killed in Afghanistan on daily basis.

Kabir now has to find way to live and escape the death threat which has been posed on him by his very close relatives – his in-laws. Serial killing of innocent people by Taliban is continuing with the killing of two to ten people every night only in Laghman province as an example of a relatively peaceful province in the country.

This is the kind of guy the West should be helping to escape Afghanistan.  He is clearly intelligent, modern, and has placed his bet on a better, modern future for his country — in part because of expectations raised by nations who invaded.

— Steve Clemons is Washington Editor at Large at The Atlantic, where this post first appeared. Clemons can be followed on Twitter at @SCClemons


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