Germany mulls Afghan pull-out ["Absolutely no policy in Afghanistan"]

M. Junaid Alam redjaguar at
Mon Feb 24 07:58:09 MST 2003

Let us see how quickly Afghanistan is forgotten once the bombs start
Living in poverty and fear of abandonment, the barely functioning state
that trusted its saviours
By Phil Reeves in Kabul
24 February 2003

The details are so compelling. The snowman, for instance, that someone
built on a roundabout in the middle of this battered city.

This was clearly meant to represent Osama bin Laden, for his name was
written on his midriff. He also had a long scraggy beard made of grass
and a Taliban head-dress.

A little joke, a dash of black humour to take the mind off the
oppressively cold weather and dismal poverty? Or was it an act of scorn
at a defeated oppressor? Or an expression of support? And what about the
blizzard of propaganda leaflets flung into the streets from a passing
car the other night?

That was the first time the "night letters" - regularly distributed in
provincial cities - have appeared in the capital, threatening jihad
against the foreign soldiers and their allies. Are these the desperate
death throes of defeated Islamist extremists, or a sign that they are
rallying anew? And what of the persistent whispers that al- Qa'ida and
Taliban elements have secretly slipped back into Kabul? These were
considered serious enough by the United Nations security analysts for
them to issue a kidnapping warning to staff on Thursday.

Now, remember, this is Kabul, a city protected by nearly 5,000
international peacekeepers, and the safest, quietest place in
Afghanistan. Yet anxiety is gripping it like winter flu.

These unsettling little tremors, possible signals of a more dangerous
faultline, are not all. A more basic issue is in play: a deep concern in
Kabul that the international community is losing interest even though
the task of repairing the wreckage of war - let alone, the even more
massive job of nation-building - has just begun.

People remember Tony Blair's pronouncement that the world "will not walk
away from Afghanistan, as it has done so many times before". But Afghans
have also listened with astonishment as Americans portray their
country's experience since the overthrow of the Taliban as a "success".

Now the United States is priming its laser-guided bombs anew, and the
attention of the world's media has swivelled to the deserts and
oilfields of Iraq. Few in Kabul seem convinced by the repeated
assurances - from the US government and its military, from the UN and
Britain - that they will not be forgotten or allowed to lapse back into
the bloodshed that prevailed after the occupying Soviet forces were
driven out by the CIA-funded and CIA-armed mujahedin in 1989.

There are plenty who dislike the presence of the Americans and their
allies sweeping around their pot-holed streets in shiny new
four-by-fours or army jeeps. This is a city that still has a deeply
conservative strain - despite all the trumpeting about the liberation of
women, many of those on the streets still wear burqas - and one whose
capacity for trust has been corroded by past international betrayals.
But a fear of abandonment - or at least a sharp fall-off in
international support - is palpable and encompasses many international
aid agency workers as well as residents. One agency official, a veteran
of several previous conflicts, told The Independent: "The Pentagon and
the White House have absolutely no policy on Afghanistan."

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