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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Is Afghanistan’s friendship with India imperiling security?

After a spate of recent deadly bombings, the Afghan capital Kabul still remains in shock. Experts believe Afghanistan’s increasingly close ties with India are a reason for the uptick in violence.

Afghanistan Selbstmordattentat in Kabul

“As soon as you step into the city you can sense that there is only fear and horror,” says Sirajuddin Yuldash, a resident of Kabul. “People are even scared of police cars and try to hide from them as soon as they see them to avoid the next suicide bombing, which can happen anytime.”

Violence has never been absent in the Afghan capital, and the recent incidents are just another episode of suicide attacks and bombings that have rocked the city. Still, the increasing brutality and high number of casualties have left many Afghans shaken. Continue reading

Anschlag in Kabul: “Regierung im Visier der Taliban”

Für die Taliban in Afghanistan hat der Kampf gegen die Regierung Priorität – auch wenn dabei Zivilisten sterben. Das zeigt der jüngste Anschlag. Die DW sprach mit Alexey Yusupov, Leiter der FES-Stiftung in Kabul.

Afghanische Sicherheitskräfte in der Nähe des Verteidigungsministeriums nach dem Anschlag (Foto: picture-alliance/dpa/H. Amid)

Deutsche Welle: Wie haben Sie den Anschlag erlebt?

Das war heute Morgen, kurz nach acht Uhr, der definitiv größte und verheerendste Anschlag in der Hauptstadt seit August letzten Jahres, als eine Lkw-Bombe im Wohnviertel Shah Shaheed explodierte. Mit mehr als 300 Verletzten war es vielleicht sogar der größte Anschlag in der Hauptstadt insgesamt in den vergangenen 15 Jahren, wenn sich die Opferzahlen bestätigen. Continue reading

‘Kabul government targeted by the Taliban’

Taliban militants on Tuesday launched a coordinated attack on a government security agency in the Afghan capital, killing scores of people. Kabul-based Afghanistan expert Alexey Yusupov talks to DW about the assault.

Afghanistan Explosion in Kabul

DW: How is the situation on the ground following the attack?

Alexey Yusupov: Today’s assault was definitely the biggest and most devastating attack in the capital Kabul since August last year, when a truck bomb exploded in Shah Shaheed, a rundown residential neighborhood not far from the city center. If reports about the numbers of dead and injured are confirmed to be accurate, then it would perhaps be the biggest attack in the capital in the last 15 years. 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.

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

Afghanistan’s security on the brink of collapse

The Taliban attacks on the Afghan parliament and the northern city of Kunduz are a reflection of the fragile security situation prevailing in the country. DW examines.

Screams, smoke and smashed windows – a shocking video of the attack on the Afghan parliament is making rounds on social media. The television footage shows what happened inside the building at the time of the attack on June 22. A huge explosion rocked the parliament complex as Speaker Abdul Rauf Ibrahimi was about to read out his welcome address.

The MP initially tried to calm lawmakers, saying “it’s an electrical issue.” Parliamentarians, however, already switched into a panic mode as Ibrahimi was escorted out of the building.

Images like these illustrate the extent of insecurity plaguing the war-torn South Asian nation. In fact, lawmakers had assembled for a general meeting to vote on a new defense minister, a position that has not been filled since President Ashraf Ghani took office over a year ago. Continue reading

Taliban demonstrieren Kampfbereitschaft

Während sie im Ausland “Geheimgespräche” mit der Regierung führen, greifen die Taliban das afghanische Parlament an. Manche sehen darin ein Zeichen ihrer Stärke.

Afghanistan Explosionen und Schüsse am Parlament in Kabul (Foto: Reuters)

Schreie, Rauch und berstende Scheiben. Ein Video vom Anschlag auf das afghanische Parlament macht in den sozialen Medien die Runde. Die Aufzeichnung der Live-Übertragung eines lokalen Fernsehsenders zeigt, was am Montagvormittag im Inneren des Parlamentsgebäudes geschah. Parlamentssprecher Abdul RaufIbrahimi ist gerade dabei, die Begrüßung zu verlesen, als eine heftige Explosion Parlamentsgebäude erschüttert. Staub fällt auf den Sprecher herab. Zunächst versucht er, die Abgeordneten zu beruhigen. Es sei nur ein Stromausfall, ruft er ihnen zu. Doch die Parlamentarier sind bereits in Panik ausgebrochen, als auch der Sprecher von Leibwächtern aus seinem Sitz gehievt wird. Continue reading

Refugee drama in Kunduz

Some 15,000 people have fled the fighting between government troops and Taliban militants in Afghanistan’s northern Kunduz Province. Both the government and international aid organizations seem overwhelmed.

Afghanistan - Flüchtlinge

Hundreds of refugees have entered the northern Afghan city of Kunduz – the capital of the eponymous province – in the past couple of days. Only a few of them have been able to bring more than what they need to survive. Now they wait under the scorching sun for the fighting between government forces and the extremists to come to an end, and for things to go back to normal. Despite the adversity, many children wander about and play.

A week ago, Nazgul was forced to leave her home in the district of Gul Tepa. Along with her three children and handicapped husband she came to Kunduz in hopes of finding security. “We are hungry and homeless,” she said. Continue reading