What I saw in Afghanistan

For Nepalis, being in Afghanistan is like putting their lives at risk of death. In 2016, 13 Nepalis were killed in a bomb explosion in Kabul. Several other Nepali citizens have lost their lives.

An Afghan woman and girl approach American troops in Kandahar. (Reuters / Tim Wimborne)

Hemant Malla Thakuri

  • Read Time 3 min.

When I reached Afghanistan, the Taliban were out of power. But the violence wreaked by them had terrorized Afghanistan and Afghani people. The South Asian country—which was slowly coming out of violence—was again grappled by terror. You cannot describe the latest situation independently without revisiting the Taliban rule. 

In Afghanistan, Taliban were in power for a long time. The whole country was under violence. At the same time, Western countries entered Afghanistan to fight against the violence of the Taliban. The Western military alliance led by the United States took control of the capital Kabul, and removed the Taliban. Slowly, the Taliban lost control over major cities of Afghanistan.

Militaries from several countries were deployed in every state to fight against the Taliban. The United States was leading the military attack.  The UK took the responsibility to control narcotics, while Germany was responsible to train, advise and assist Afghan security forces. Although the roles were thus identified, the US was engaged in every sector breaching the agreement. As a result, disagreement started to arise between these countries. 

I was in Afghanistan from 2006 to 2007 as the head of the ‘Police Advisory Unit’ of the United Nations. As a part of my responsibility, I had to participate in meetings with Afghani Home Ministry, Defense Ministry, Finance Ministry, Europol, International Security Assistance Force, and different embassies. I used to put forward my views clearly in those meetings. Even in the report I submitted after the completion of my mission, my views about the future of Afghanistan were not positive. I still do not see any changes in the situation there. 

It has already been 13 years since I left Afghanistan. But, there has been no improvement in security, corruption control, bureaucracy and human rights. Even though Western countries are present in Afghanistan, other countries such as India, China, Russia, among others also have their interests in the South Asian country. It is important to know how Afghani government and terrorist groups manage international and regional interests. Talibans are not only limited in Afghanistan after opening its contact office in Doha. Currently, militias, and Mujahideen, who provided weapons to the Afghani government, are also involved in the battle against the Taliban. This is the reason there is a threat of violence again in Afghanistan. 

Citizens suffer 

People have been criticizing the Afghani security forces for not being able to control violence in the country. They were not able to provide proper training to the military people. Only after a month of training, the troops were deployed in the battlefields. How could the troops, trained only for a month, ensure security of the country? 

In many cases, security personnel themselves were found to be involved in criminal activities. People were not happy with the services provided by the government offices. Corruption was rampant. Justice was not possible. This slowly alienated people from the government and the state. 

Anti-Taliban operations by the government were largely limited to urban areas. As such, the Taliban were more dominant in the rural areas. As the people in the rural areas were deprived of government services, they used to seek the help of the Taliban for security and justice, among other things. For many of the people in the rural areas, the Taliban appeared like a force to look up to. The Taliban, in turn, presented themselves as being in favor of the people.   

The Taliban allowed the government schools and hospitals to operate but they had to follow the rules set by the Taliban. Only urbanites seem to be more terrified of the Taliban. It is normal to see women not wearing Burqa in Kabul now. One can see girls going to schools. Television serials are popular. People are found in restaurants with family. Modern vehicles are seen on the roads of Kabul. Business activities are increasing. 

People in the urban areas are afraid that all these activities will be controlled by the Taliban. People worry that with the Taliban becoming powerful again, they will not be able to wear modern clothes. Girls are afraid that the Taliban will take away their freedom to go to schools. They also fear that the Taliban will force them to wear the veils in the city areas. 

Nepalis at risk 

After the Taliban lost their grip on power, thousands of Nepalis reached Afghanistan. They work in the World Bank, the UN, foreign agencies and companies. They are also working at the United States Embassy and the United Kingdom Embassy in Kabul. Many Nepalis work as the security guards of experts brought by the US in Kabul. 

For these Nepalis, being in Afghanistan is like putting their lives at risk of death.

 In 2016, a total of 13 Nepalis were killed in a bomb explosion at the Canada Embassy in Kabul. Several other Nepali citizens have lost their lives. 

As foreign troops have returned from Afghanistan, the number of Nepalis working for security has increased in the country. If Afghani forces find it difficult to battle against the Taliban, there may be more demands for Nepalis by foreign security companies. More Nepalis might go to Afghanistan, in lack of jobs at home, to work for these companies, which again means they will be exposed to grave dangers, even the risks of deaths. 

Hemant Malla Thakuri is a retired Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Nepal Police.