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Hopes in Afghanistan's south for speedier withdrawal of Western forces

The leaked US army files have exposed the cruel reality of the war in Afghanistan. In the south, many hope that this will increase public pressure on Western governments to quickly withdraw their troops.

Afghans in the south have lost their trust in the international troops

Afghans in the south have lost their trust in the international troops

For the people in the war-torn south of Afghanistan, the Wikileaks files certainly don't reveal anything they didn't know already. What has shocked many in the West is part of everyday life for the Afghans here. They have seen most of it with their own eyes.

But what makes the documents interesting are the consequences the Wikileaks papers might have - a speedier withdrawal of Western forces. 20-year-old Mohammad Maqsood Zamir, a journalist with the Kandahar internet newspaper Benawa, thinks:

"There is war in Afghanistan because of the presence of international troops. The people here are fighting the government also because they see them as collaborating with the foreigners. It will speed up the peace process if the international troops leave Afghanistan."

A protest against alleged killings of civilians by coalition forces in Kunar province

A protest against alleged killings of civilians by coalition forces in Kunar province

Pashtuns believe foreign presence has helped Taliban

The majority of Pashtuns in southern Afghanistan don't back the Taliban. Zamir says that on the contrary many believe the presence of international troops is strengthening the fundamentalist militants. He points out that the Taliban lost most of their influence in the region during the years after losing power in Kabul, but now they are back, controlling more and more of southern Afghanistan.

Khanwadi Zalarzai from the Pajwak news agency adds that many people are frustrated because the West is fighting the Taliban only in Afghanistan and not pursuing them into neighboring Pakistan. "It is clear that they have their sanctuaries in Pakistan, but Western troops shut their eyes to the facts."

In his home region Kunar people just don't trust the West any more, he explains, because it hasn't kept its promises.

Afghan women have come a long way since the fall of the Taliban

Afghan women have come a long way since the fall of the Taliban

Women no longer fear return of the Taliban

Not even Afghan women, whose suppression by the Taliban was one of the reasons why many Western parliamentarians decided to vote for sending troops to Afghanistan, would shed any tears over a troop withdrawal, says Shukria Rahmanzai. The reporter and anchorwoman of the public broadcaster RTA in Jalalabad does recognize that the West has brought a lot of positive change in Afghanistan.

The confident young Afghan says whereas women used to be confined to their homes, they have meanwhile become students, businesswomen and even parliamentarians. She believes they don't even need to be afraid of the Taliban returning to Afghan politics. "If the government is strong, implements the laws and respects the rights that Islam is giving us, nobody will be able to take away from us what we have achieved."

The young woman suggests the focus should be on strengthening the Afghan army for this purpose. She proposes that the Americans should instead concentrate on searching for the suicide bombers who she says are trained in Pakistan and sent to Afghanistan.

President Karzai reaching out to Pashtun tribal leaders in Kandahar

President Karzai reaching out to Pashtun tribal leaders in Kandahar

Support for reconciliation efforts

Journalist Khanwadi Zalarzai isn't afraid of the Taliban either. He says they should be given another chance to reintegrate into Afghan society. "I support President Karzai's idea of holding peace talks with the Afghan Taliban and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hizb-e-Islami."

Many Afghans have lost all hope that the West will achieve its goals and are keen to take their destiny back into their own hands. After all, many claim - with a disappointed undertone - that the foreigners are only using Afghanistan for their own ends.

Author: Cem Sey / tb
Editor: Grahame Lucas

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