What do Americans think of Afghanistan?

"The Americans left a mess here"

It's a sunny morning in Dascht-e Barchi, a district in western Kabul. Several dozen people have gathered to watch a sports event for people with disabilities. Most of the spectators and participants are members of the Shiite Hazara minority. This is not surprising, because Dascht-e Barchi is mainly inhabited by Hazara.

In the past, they were also the target of attacks here. About a year ago, IS terrorists attacked a maternity hospital and killed at least 24 people. In 2016, over 30 people were killed in an attack on an educational establishment. This and other massacres are burned into people's memories. Nevertheless, hardly any safety precautions were taken for today's sporting event. One police and one army jeep each are present. The soldiers belonging to them seem bored and disinterested. "Be glad we're even there," says Tamim as he plays with his rifle. He doesn't want to give his last name. Tamim claims that he and his colleagues are not responsible for Dascht-e Barchi and the event. You are there, but you cannot guarantee real security either. "Well, that's the state of our army," he says, somewhat bent.

It is the army that will soon be completely on its own. At the beginning of May, the US intends to begin its withdrawal from Afghanistan, which should be completed on September 11th. All bases and other equipment are to be handed over to the Afghan security forces. According to General Austin Scott Miller, the general of the US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, the withdrawal has already begun. Now Washington even wants to send more soldiers to the country for this purpose. "We will bring in additional resources to protect the forces at the withdrawal," said the chief of the US military command Centcom, General Kenneth McKenzie, on Thursday at a hearing in the US Senate in Washington. At the same time, he expressed great concern about the future security situation in Afghanistan. The other NATO countries are also preparing to withdraw. The Bundeswehr plans to leave the country in July.

As different as the reactions to the invasion at the end of 2001 were, they are just as different among many Afghans today. "We cannot rely on them forever," says the soldier Tamim. As soon as his pay went off, he would join some militia. "I'm prepared for war," he says.

The withdrawal of US troops is causing many Afghans to lapse into déjà vu. In 1989 the last Soviet troops left Afghanistan after their ten-year occupation. The last communist regime, led by Mohammad Najibullah Ahmadzai, was able to hold out for three more years thanks to financial and logistical support from Moscow. After the money was turned off, the mujahideen rebels took Kabul and a new spook began. A bloody civil war broke out and killed thousands of Afghans. In September 1996 the Taliban captured Kabul and established the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. It was not until the US-led coalition ended its rule after the attacks of September 11, 2001.

According to official information, 2,500 US soldiers were last stationed in Afghanistan. In addition, there are around 18,000 US contract workers in the country who perform various tasks. NATO still has around 7,500 soldiers in the country, including around 1,100 from Germany.

The beginning of a long downward spiral
Afghanistan's recent history can be traced back to the turning point of the communist-inspired coup on April 27, 1978

“In all these years, the US troops in Afghanistan have been unable to achieve anything. I don't think her departure will make a big difference, ”says Arzo Rahimi, a student from Kabul. She does not want the Taliban to return to Kabul and considers such scenarios to be exaggerated. One must concentrate on economic aid and regional cooperation. "The Americans left a mess here and now they want to leave quickly," she sums up.

However, many impressions from the Afghan capital differ significantly from everyday life in other parts of the country. Especially in the rural regions, the Taliban have long been in charge again. And they are already present again in some of the suburbs of Kabul. Recently, the violence has increased significantly again. At least 29 people were killed and numerous others injured over the weekend. Targeted attacks on intellectuals and representatives of the media and the state are again increasing. In the capital Kabul, strangers shot dead a university lecturer, a government official and four police officers in three incidents on Saturday.

In the first three months of 2021, according to the UN relief operation Unama in Afghanistan, at least 573 civilians were killed and 1,210 wounded. That is almost 30 percent more than a year earlier. In particular, the number of women injured or killed rose by 37 percent and that of children by 23 percent. A planned high-level peace conference in Istanbul for this Saturday was canceled by the Taliban because the US troops were staying for a longer period of time.

Many women who want an urban life and study or are employed are all the more concerned. “The Taliban, in particular, are happy about the withdrawal of the troops. You were just waiting for it. I am afraid of their return. They don't see women as people, ”says Marwa Hashemi, a doctor from Kabul.

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