As the debate rages on in Germany about whether the army should be in Afghanistan at all, it seems that some of the efforts of the international and Afghan troops are bearing fruit – especially in Kunduz.
ISAF's offensive in Kunduz has forced the Taliban to retreat from many districts
Can the all clear be sounded? Well, not yet says Major General Hans-Werner Fritz, the commander of ISAF's Regional Command North in Afghanistan, recently told the media. But he was relieved that the influence of the insurgents around Kunduz had decreased.
Locals on the ground agree with him. Gul Rahim Niazman is an expert on peace and conflict studies in Kabul: "The security situation in the province of Kunduz has improved over the past few weeks. For example in Gultapa district, which used to be a hotbed for insurgency but was re-captured with the help of the ISAF troops. The insurgents still have control of other regions and many villages are occupied but Kunduz has become much safer."
Night-time calls allowed again
This can be felt among the population. They, for instance, are glad that they can make phone calls again. "We had so many problems with the mobile network," says one. "It was jammed but now it is working again."
Last spring, the Taliban banned cell phones from being used between 6pm and 6am in the area and many network providers complied, but they have resumed their services now and this is a good sign, the locals say.
"This proves that the government has been successful and that the security situation has improved. People can feel it," one man said.
Major General Hans-Werner Fritz and German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg at a ceremony for fallen German soldiers in Kunduz
Many Afghans supported offensive against Taliban
The ISAF launched an offensive in the region in spring 2010, and many Afghans supported the international troops, telling them if they knew of booby traps or imminent Taliban attacks.
Mohammed Khan, who lives in Char Darrah, which was formerly also a hotbed of insurgency in Kunduz, said the relationship between the people and the police also played an important role.
"The boys here in Char Darrah are all from the region," he said. "Security has improved a lot. The insurgents have fled and the police are in control. Whenever there is any danger they get there very fast."
"The ISAF is here, the security forces and then there’s also the police – us. I promise people that the Taliban will be driven away from here fast. So long as we are here, the enemy has no chance. We are not allowing the Taliban to stay," said local police officer Najibullah.
The situation in Kunduz has calmed down
German debate rages on
Meanwhile, on Thursday the debate about Germany's role in Afghanistan raged on in parliament.
Development Minister Dirk Niebel rejected opposition calls to clearly separate German development work and military operations in Afghanistan, pointing out that a lot of progress had been made. He added it was irresponsible to paint the situation black as this would just play into the hands of the extremists.
Others in the ruling coalition claimed there could be no development without a successful security policy. However, the opposition Left Party said there "could be no talk of progress after nine years," whereas the Social Democrats and Greens pointed out that not enough had been done to fight corruption.
Authors: Ute Hempelmann/Waslat Hasrat-Nazimi/act
Editor: Thomas Baerthlein