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
Arts and Entertainment
Ramsay Bolton in Game of Thrones
tvSeries 5, Episode 3 review
News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
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

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence