Displaced locals reluctant to return to Kunduz

Afghan troops have recaptured the northern city of Kunduz, but those who fled the fighting are still afraid to return to their homes. Most of them are living in nearby areas without basic facilities, waiting for help.

Afghanistan Flüchtlingslager in Kundus (Getty Images/AFP/S. Marai)

“The fighting has destroyed everything,” said Abdul Latif. Latif fled the fighting in Kunduz with his family to take refuge in the neighboring Mazar-e Sharif city.

“Kunduz has been burnt down. Many people have been killed or are injured. It was only with great difficulty that I was able to save my family from the war. Before fleeing, we were stuck in Kunduz for many days. There was no way out and there is no bread and drinking water in the city,” he told DW. Continue reading

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Flüchtlingshilfe nach Rückeroberung von Kundus

Die Taliban wurden zwar aus Kundus wieder zurückgedrängt. Aber die Lebensgrundlage vieler Einwohner ist zerstört. Die Flüchtlinge werden in den umliegenden Städten versorgt, auch die Zentralregierung kümmert sich.

Flüchtlingslager in Kundus (Foto: Getty Images/AFP/S. Marai)

“Viele Geschäfte und Läden sind durch Feuer zerstört worden. Viele Menschen wurden getötet oder verletzt”, sagt Abdul Latif. Mit seiner Familie ist er vor einer Woche aus dem umkämpften Kundus nach Masar-i Sharif gekommen. “Nur unter großen Schwierigkeiten konnte ich meine Familie aus der Stadt retten. Davor steckten wir tagelang fest. Es gab keinen Ausweg und kein Brot und Wasser.”

So wie Abdul Latif sind Tausende Bewohner von Kundus in die Nachbarprovinz Balch nach Masar-i Sharif geflüchtet und halten sich in der Stadt verteilt auf. “Wir schätzen, dass in den letzen zwei Wochen knapp 40.000 Menschen aus Kundus geflohen sind”, sagt Danielle Moylan, Sprecherin des UN-Büros für humanitäre Hilfe (OCHA) in Afghanistan. “Die meisten sind in nahe gelegene Städte wie Talokan, Kabul, Masar-i Sharif, Pul-e Khumri und Faisabad gegangen.” Continue reading

Rückkehr des Terrors in Kundus?

Ein Jahr nach dem Fall sind Großteile der afghanischen Provinz Kundus weiterhin umkämpft. Die Taliban stehen von den Toren der gleichnamigen Hauptstadt. Die Bewohner rechnen jederzeit mit der Rückkehr des Terrors.

Leben in Kundus (Foto: DW)

Ali Sina weiß noch genau, was an diesem Tag vor einem Jahr passiert war, als die Taliban die Stadt einnahmen. Er war selbst in Kundus, als die Taliban-Kämpfer einmarschierten. “An diesen Tagen lebten die Menschen in Horror und Schrecken. Viele Gebäude wurden zerstört. Die Läden wurden geplündert. Etwa acht bis neun Tage konnten die Bewohner ihr Zuhause nicht verlassen. Niemand war in der Stadt. Es gab kein Brot, kein Wasser und keinen Strom”, sagt Ali.  Es ist ein Jahr her, dass die Taliban nordafghanische Stadt Kundus einnahmen. Vor zwei Jahren stand hier noch ein großer Militärstützpunkt der deutschen Bundeswehr. Nach deren Abzug fiel die ehemalige Militärbasis in die Hände der radikal-islamischen Kämpfer. Das war der größte Erfolg der Terrororganisation seit dem Sturz der Talibanregierung in 2001. Continue reading

Afghanistan in 2015 – Withdrawing pledges to withdraw

2015 was a troubled year for Afghanistan. With the Taliban and IS achieving temporary success within the country, NATO was forced to revise its troop withdrawal plans.

An Afghan army soldier stands guard at the attack site at Kandahar airport, southern Afghanistan

The Afghan security forces were expected to assume full responsibility for defense and security within their country for the first time this year. At the end of 2014, NATO’s combat mission concluded, leaving its follow-up mission “Resolute Support” to merely observe, advise, and train the Afghan army. For this mission, more than 10,000 NATO troops remained in Afghanistan. 850 of the soldiers were provided by the German military.

While Afghan forces were taking the reins on ensuring peace and order within the country, initiatives for a peace process with the Taliban were being pushed forward. In the spring of 2015, it looked as though the peace talks were off to a good start, but these hopes were soon dashed.

Mullah Mohammed Omar FBI wanted picture

Fractured Taliban

The confirmation of the death of Taliban leader Mullah Omar ended the first fragile successes of the initial peace talks. It was said that Omar – who supposedly died in 2013 – campaigned for the talks and supported them as long as they involved the conclusion of the NATO mission in Afghanistan. After the Afghan government announced his death – and the Taliban confirmed it – in July of 2015, the basis for the peace negotiations fell apart.

The new leader of the Taliban, Mullah Akhtar Mansour, rejected a rapprochement between the parties. Despite numerous rumors about an internal rift in the Taliban – some of its fighters supposedly refused to recognize Mansour as their leader – the militant group proved its strength by increasing the number of attacks.

According to a semi-annual report from the UN, the number of casualties reached a new peak in 2015. Around 5,000 civilians died as a result of the violence in the first half of the year.

“The fact that the Taliban was able to weather so many challenges this year – particularly a difficult leadership transition – will give it confidence for the next year,” argued Michael Kugelman, a South Asia expert at the Washington-based Woodrow Wilson Center.

“At the end of the day, the Taliban still has two things working in its favor: a continued relationship with Pakistan, which will afford it sanctuary; and an Afghan government perceived as weak and ineffective, which could help spark recruitment,” the analyst told DW.

The fall of Kunduz

Taliban fighters pose for a photo next to a UN vehicle which they used in Kunduz, Afghanistan after taking parts of the city

Despite many previous signs of a deteriorating security situation in the country, the fall of the provincial capital of Kunduz in northern Afghanistan signalled a turning point in the eyes of NATO.

For a few days (from September 28 until October 13), parts of this strategically-located city were in the hands of the Taliban. Images of fleeing Afghan security forces were seen around the world. The Taliban took triumphant selfies with locals in Kunduz and patrolled the streets in state police cars. According to the UN, around 850 people were killed. The fall of Kunduz was a serious blow to the morale of the Afghan military and the police.

With the temporary fall of Kunduz, it became obvious that Afghanistan is not in the position to defend itself. “I’m quite sure that the fall of Kunduz, as well as the growing threat of IS in Afghanistan, figured prominently in President Obama’s decision to halt the US troop withdrawal,” Kugelman told DW.

For its part, the German government wants to increase the number of troops it stations in Afghanistan to 980 next year. For Thomas Ruttig, co-director of the Afghanistan Analysts Network, this figure is by no means sufficient.

“To only slightly increase the number of soldiers in Afghanistan and to only do a little more than what had been done before is inadequate. It fails to address the real problems.” In addition to massive problems on the security front, the country is also afflicted by a raft of social, economic and institutional challenges, Ruttig said.

Afghan refugees

A consequence of this precarious state of affairs is the exodus of huge numbers of Afghans seeking better lives elsewhere. In 2015, over 140,000 Afghans fled to Europe, a majority of them to Germany.

According to the German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, more than 31,000 refugees from Afghanistan were registered in November, alone. After the Syrians, the Afghans are now the second largest group of asylum seekers.

“We are doing everything in our power so that Afghans do not believe it is necessary to leave the country,” Sayed Zafar Hashemi, spokesman for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, recently told DW. In an interview with DW’s Conflict Zone, President Ghani said the refugees in Europe wouldn’t become more than “dishwashers.” He emphasized, that it is not possible for refugees to economically rise in Europe and the only chance for a career lies in Afghanistan.

For Alexey Yusupov, director of the Freidrich Ebert Foundation in Kabul, this trend towards fleeing Afghanistan originated from tactically circulated misinformation from human smugglers and lenders. “It is not only about rhetoric, but it is also about concretely and actively tackling these networks,” Yusupov told DW. Until now, these measures have failed as more and more people continue to flee Afghanistan. “People need to realize that they can change their living conditions for the better, so that they will stay,” he asserted.

The Afghan government has developed programs which will try to tackle this issue in the coming year. One example is a project called “Jobs for Peace,” an initiative supported by Germany, which will create jobs in Afghanistan. Only time will tell whether or not the feeling of hopelessness can be averted in 2016.

Zurück nach Kundus – trotz Gefahr

Nach der vorrübergehenden Einnahme von Kundus durch die Taliban wollten viele Menschen nur eins: raus aus der Stadt. Oder sogar aus dem Land. Es gibt aber auch Menschen, die jetzt statt nach Europa lieber zurück gehen.

Afghanische Binnenflüchtlinge, die nach der Einnahme von Kundus nach Kabul geflohen sind (Foto: Hussain Sirat / DW)

“Ich will auf keinen Fall nach Europa”, sagt Haji Jamaluddin. Der 62-jährige ist aus Kundus geflohen, wo er Lehrer an einer Oberschule ist. Zusammen mit seiner Familie ist er in die afghanische Hauptstadt Kabul gekommen, um der Unsicherheit in seiner Provinz zu entfliehen. Er ist nicht der einzige. In einem Kabuler Stadtteil steht ein Großteil von ihnen nun in einer langen Schlange an der Haltestelle Baraki. Sie warten darauf, dass sie zurück nach Kundus gehen können.

Nach der mehrere Tage andauernden Besetzung durch die Taliban ist die Stadt zwar wieder in der Hand der Regierung, aber das bedeutet nicht, dass die Sicherheit wieder vollkommen hergestellt ist. Die Kämpfe in den Vororten von Kundus gehen weiter. Continue reading

Back to Kunduz – despite the dangers

Tens of thousands of Afghans have been driven from the northern city of Kunduz by fierce fighting. Many of them now want to return there rather than join those fleeing to Europe and other places abroad.

Afghanistan Kabul Flüchtlinge

When the Taliban temporarily captured the city of Kunduz, many residents wanted to do but one thing: get out. Out of the city, maybe even out of the country. Now, many would like to go back home – and not to Europe, a frequent destination for Afghans fleeing conflict in their homeland.

“There is no way that I want to go to Europe,” says Haji Jamauddin. The 62-year-old high school teacher fled during the attack. He and his family came to Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, to escape the uncertainty of their home province. They are not the only ones. Many of these people are now standing in a long line at the Baraki bus stop in the city’s Sherpur neighborhood. They are waiting to go back to Kunduz. Continue reading

“Taliban haben ihr Ziel in Kundus erreicht”

Regierungstruppen versuchen, die Stadt Kundus von den Taliban zurückzuerobern. Ein afghanischer Einwohner, der nach dem Einmarsch der Taliban nach Kabul fliehen konnte, hat mit der DW über seine Eindrücke gesprochen.

Sicherheitskräfte und Einwohner an einer Einfallstraße nach Kundus (Foto: Getty Images/AFP)

DW: Sie waren in der Stadt, als die Taliban Kundus einnahmen. Wie haben Sie die Geschehnisse erlebt?

Gegen drei Uhr morgens begann der Angriff der Taliban, überall konnte man Schüsse hören. Die Kämpfer lieferten sich mit afghanischen Sicherheitskräften Schusswechsel von Haus zu Haus. Zwischen acht und neun Uhr morgens haben die Angreifer dann wichtige Regierungsposten und öffentliche Gebäude eingenommen. Wir saßen zu Hause und hörten davon, wie schnell die Taliban einen Ort nach dem anderen einnahmen. Gegen drei Uhr nachmittags hörten wir dann, dass sie seelenruhig in die Stadt marschierten und dann ihre Flagge im Zentrum der Stadt hissten. Continue reading

Dashed hopes – A year into Afghanistan’s unity government

When Afghan politicians reached a deal to form a unity government last September, many hoped for a future free of insecurity, unemployment and corruption. But a year into the government, what has changed on the ground?

Ashraf Ghani und Abdullah Abdullah

A day before President Ashraf Ghani’s unity government marked its first anniversary, the northern city of Kunduz fell to Taliban fighters, drawing global media attention to the precarious security situation in Afghanistan. However, the stunning assault by the militants is hardly surprising for Afghans, even though they are dismayed by the latest development.

It’s been just nine months since NATO’s ISAF mission ended. The mission’s primary objective was to enable the Afghan government to provide “effective security” across the war-torn nation and develop forces to ensure the country can “never again become a safe haven for terrorists.” Continue reading

Kunduz fighting puts development work in jeopardy

Aid workers are considered a blessing as well as a problem in Afghanistan. Their presence is not always welcome in the country. But in the embattled province of Kunduz, the effects on the NGOs are even more palpable.

Afghan militia forces as they stand with their weapons in Kunduz<br /><br />
(Photo: SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images)

Security alerts are a common occurrence in Imam Sahib, a district in the northern Afghan province of Kunduz. Fighting between the Taliban and Afghan security forces have been raging in the area for months now. Despite that, several development organizations are still working in Kunduz.

“We are currently running a number of large projects in Imam Sahib,” said the district head Imamuddin Quraishi. “We have built several government buildings and educational institutes, and a large cold storage,” he said, adding that while the fighting would continue that should not stop development work in the province. Continue reading