We felt safer under Taliban, say Kabul residents

AFP via HINDUSTAN TIMES, January 25, 2002

AFP Kabul: Just 10 weeks after the Taliban fled Kabul city, Afghans are already starting to say they felt safer under the now-defeated hardline militia than under the power-sharing interim administration that has replaced it.

Murders, robberies and hijackings in the capital, factional clashes in the north and south of the country, instability in Kandahar and banditry on roads linking main centres are beginning to erode the optimism that greeted the inauguration of the interim administration on December 22.

Senior United Nations official Francesc Vendrell said there were "reasons for concern" over the security situation in Afghanistan. "There are hundreds of thousands of people with weapon," said Vendrell, deputy to the UN special envoy to Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi.

He said the situation in the south of the country was still "unclear" and it could take up to 30,000 international troops to secure the main towns and cities and the potholed tracks that pass as highways in the war-battered country.

The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) is limited to 4,500 troops and restricted to the Kabul area to protect the new interim government during its six-month lifespan. In Kabul, where a night-time curfew is still in place, shots and explosions are often heard after dark. Residents reported three people murdered on Wednesday alone.

Last week "an incendiary device" exploded against one of the walls surrounding the tightly guarded United States Embassy in Kabul, spokesman John Kincannon said, adding that no damage was caused.

Diplomatic sources in Kabul said there was a definite increase in instability in Kabul. "This is clear," said one diplomat, who added that there are around 700,000 armed people in Afghanistan. "They have the culture of the Kalashnikov. They don't want to lay down their arms."

Some parts of the capital have become no-go zones while residents everywhere were careful to lock their doors at night. "People don't feel safe, so they welcome the presence of ISAF," the diplomat said.

Kabul police chief Abdul Basir Khan Salangi denied there was insecurity in the city, saying those claiming the opposite were "enemies and those who want to defame the government".

He said the Afghan police force was in total control of the situation. Salangi acknowledged, however that he was only "about 10 percent" satisfied with security in the capital and that his force had only 10 to 12 patrol vehicles, when it needed about 250.

Security concerns in other parts of the country were heightened this week when Syed Noorullah, deputy to ethnic Uzbek warlord Abdul Rashid Dostam, said fighting had erupted in recent days around Qala-e-Zal, 60 kms northwest of Kunduz.

An intelligence service source said on Thursday two rival tribal leaders in the southeastern city of Khost were engaged in a power struggle which threatened to erupt into open fighting.

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