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As foreigners go, Afghan city is feeling abandoned

November 3, 2012 • World News


In this Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2012 photo, Mayor Mohammad Omer speaks during an interview in his office in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Omer dismisses suggestions that people are leaving Kandahar city out of desperation. He says there are jobs, if not any quite so high-paying as the foreigners provided, and if people are leaving the city, it is to return to villages they fled in previous years because now security has improved. Thousands of Kandaharis are weighing their options with the approaching departure of the U.S. and its coalition partners. Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second city, is the southern counterweight to Kabul, the capital. Keeping the city under central government control is critical to preventing the country from breaking apart into warring fiefdoms as it did in the 1990s. (AP Photo/Allaudin Khan)

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AP) — By switching from studying business management to training as a nurse, 19-year-old Anita Taraky has placed a bet on the future of the southern Afghan city of Kandahar — that once foreign troops are gone, private-sector jobs will be fewer but nursing will always be in demand.

Besides, if the Taliban militants recapture the southern Afghan city that was their movement’s birthplace and from which they were expelled by U.S.-led forces 11 years ago, nursing will likely be one of the few professions left open to women.

Taraky is one of thousands of Kandaharis who are weighing their options with the approaching departure of the U.S. and its coalition partners. But while she has opted to stay, businessman Esmatullah Khan is leaving.

Khan, 29, made his living in property dealing and supplying services to the Western contingents operating in the city. Property prices are down, and business with foreigners is already shrinking, so he is pulling out, as are many others, he said.

Many are driven by a certainty that the Taliban will return, and that there will be reprisals.

“From our baker to our electrician to our plumber, everyone was engaged with the foreign troops and so they are all targets for the Taliban. And unless the government is much stronger, when the foreign troops leave, that is the end,” Khan said.

The stakes are high. Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second city, is the southern counterweight to Kabul, the capital. Keeping Kandahar under central government control is critical to preventing the country from breaking apart into warring fiefdoms as it did in the 1990s.

“Kandahar is the gate of Afghanistan,” said Asan Noorzai, director of the provincial council. “If Kandahar is secure, the whole country is secure. If it is insecure, the whole country will soon be fighting.”

Even though Kandahar city has traffic jams and street hawkers to give it an atmosphere of normality, there are Login to read more

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