Afghans remain sceptical that they will see peace in their time

 

Lashkar Gah

"I was born into war. I sometimes curse my parents. Why did they have children in war?" asked Faiz, an earnest young man from Kabul working as an interpreter in Helmand.

The 28-year-old explained that he never planned to marry or have children until he was sure that they would not have to endure the hardships of conflict. He held out little hope that that would ever happen.

"I will not have a wife, children. I have never known peace – only for a short time in Kabul. I am not hopeful.

"Most people in Afghanistan are hopeful – they wish, but they are not sure," he continued.

As the British and Americans talk grandly of an end game and the process of "transition", ordinary Afghans who will be left behind remain sceptical that they will see peace in their time. The mere suggestion elicits a shrug of the shoulders, a quizzical look.

Afghanistan may be rich in minerals but the commodity its people so desperately need is hope, and this is being tested to breaking point. Ten years after the start of the current conflict, the war seems bloodier than ever, with high numbers of troop deaths and record civilian casualties.

Spectacular bombings are daily news digests – 19 dead in Uruzgan, 19 in Nahr e Saraj, 18 in Lashkar Gah – it is a seemingly endless list.

As The Independent on Sunday reported last week, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (Unama) has found that the rate of civilian casualties has reached a record high, with 1,462 killed in January to June this year. While 80 per cent of those deaths were caused by insurgents, the number who died as a result of coalition air attacks was 14 per cent higher despite efforts to minimise civilian casualties.

Last week, just days after a Taliban suicide bomber caused carnage outside the police headquarters in Lashkar Gah, killing at least 18 and critically maiming more, the locals did not even flinch at a series of explosions. These were, in fact, simply controlled detonations, but it seems the Afghans have grown immune to the sounds of war.

Pretty little girls in sparkly dresses now throw rocks at passing vehicles – an international sign of the way conflict engulfs children – play becomes combat.

"It is almost 10 years since the Taliban lost power. There have been some changes, but not all good changes," explained Rohullah Elham, 25, one of a generation of driven young reporters who risk life and limb to investigate corruption and report on the fighting in Helmand.

"We have spent our whole life in war. The situation has improved a little bit, but still it is not where we want it to be. We do have a hope for a better future, but 10 years in not enough," he added.

Around Helmand there are signs of progress, regeneration projects that have sprung up, provincial councils that are now beginning to work on behalf of their electorate, a populace slowly turning from tribal or Taliban justice to seek out courts of law. Perhaps the most telling sign is that those who once listed security as their primary concern are now much quicker to complain about corruption.

But the violence persists. Locals insist they are glad that Afghan forces have now taken control of security, but already – just a fortnight after the transition of power from Isaf forces – they are fearful that they are not ready to cope with the Taliban onslaught alone.

At the Department of Women's Affairs (DoWA) building, Fowzea Olomi pointed to the shattered windows around the room, blown out by the police headquarters bomb days earlier.

"Every day the women and girls come for courses, that day they were crying and screaming. Security has got worse than before. The situation has got tougher and tougher."

Nearby her six-year-old granddaughter, Mursal, or Rose, wandered about clad in jeans and a T-shirt, a flower slide holding back her hair. She appeared every inch a modern child. Her grandmother's greatest hope is that she will become a minister for women's affairs one day.

Despite the violence, an increasing number of girls are getting primary education, but too few continue on to secondary school.

"In the current situation we see administrative corruption and violence against women. If the situation stays the same we will not have a good future, we cannot move forwards," said Mrs Olomi. "If we don't get rid of corruption and improve education the next generation will face the same situation, we won't have a real peace."

In his office at the Lashkar Gah Press Club, Zainullah Stanikzia agreed that the years ahead looked bleak if they could not sort out their government and build a strong education system. But he believed it was time for transition.

"The Afghan people are tired of war. We have spent more than 30 years at war. Each family has lost at least one family member. We are very tired.

"If the Afghan security forces are trained well and they have enough equipment they are able to provide security, it is much better that way.

"Look at history over the last 1,000 years. The Afghans have never accepted foreign forces in their country. If the foreigners stay for 100 years, they will never be accepted and there will be no future for 100 years."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
peopleMathematician John Nash inspired the film Beautiful Mind
News
Richard Blair is concerned the trenches are falling into disrepair
newsGeorge Orwell's son wants to save war site that inspired book
Life and Style
Audrey Hepburn with Hubert De Givenchy, whose well-cut black tuxedo is a 'timeless look'
fashionIt may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
Arts and Entertainment
The pair in their heyday in 1967
music
Life and Style
fashionFrom bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine