Afghan hopes crushed by crime, conflict, chaos

(4 Feb 2021) Despite billions of dollars spent in Afghanistan since the 2001 collapse of the Taliban, more than 54 percent of the country’s 32 million people live below the poverty level with a daily wage of less than 1.90 US dollars.
Most Afghans blame crushing poverty and widespread unemployment for the marauding criminal gangs, who terrorize residents.
Terrorized by Islamic State and Taliban insurgents, by heavily armed warlords and their often-belligerent militias, criminal gangs and even government security officials, residents of Kabul rarely go out after dark.
They are increasingly sending their children to safety outside the city, and for those who are able, outside the country.
Every morning when Khan Wali Kamran wakes, he fears his children might die in Kabul’s deadly streets before he returns home at the end of the day.
Late last year he couldn’t bear the gnawing fear and sent them to live with his parents in his home village several hours drive away.  His young son is just 2.
Fear so dominates Kamran’s world that he asked not to identify his home village.  
Kamran blames the Afghan capital’s grim security on both the government and insurgents.
Afghans say the deep corruption that permeates most ministries and security agencies has crippled their capacity and made them incapable of keeping Afghans safe.
They blame both Taliban and the Islamic State affiliate, whom they accuse of the relentless sticky bombs, targeted killings and near daily attacks.
Last year hope was high that a peace deal between the Taliban and U.S. government would bring peace to Afghanistan ending more than four decades of relentless war.
But talks have been excruciatingly slow and analysts say there are participants on both sides of the conflict that have more to gain from war than peace.
The relentless violence and decades of war between the Taliban and government forces is taking its toll on Afghans’ mental well-being, said psychologist Sharafuddin Azimi, who estimated tens of thousands of Afghans are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Twenty-two-years-old Malik, who runs a small barbershop in Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood asked to be identified by just one name.
Malik said, two thieves entered his stop and took 30,000 Afghanis (380 US dollars) and two mobile phones some months ago.
Filing a complaint, for months Malik waited for the police to do something, but no one was arrested, the money was not recovered nor were the phones.
He said he is more careful now and closes his shop earlier than he used to do before the robbery.
Security has been deteriorating annually even before the withdrawal of American troops which are currently at 2,500 -troop strength after former U.S. President Donald Trump accelerated the withdrawal.
In 2015 when refugees flooded Europe, 178,000 Afghans were among them.
But even as the refugee arrivals in Europe dwindled, Afghans continued to flee their homeland and in 2019 Afghans were among the largest number of refugees arriving in Greece.
In 2019 the International Organization of Migration reported that 2.3 million Afghans had fled their country since 2012.
Most fled next door to Iran and Pakistan with the remainder to Europe and Turkey.

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