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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 September, 2003, 01:22 GMT 02:22 UK
Afghans warn of US neglect

By Sanjoy Majumder
BBC News Online correspondent in Kabul

Two years after the 11 September attacks on America, Afghanistan finds itself in a dilemma.

For most Afghans the aftermath of the World Trade Center strikes meant liberation from the rule of the Taleban and its hardline Islamic rule.

Kabul music seller
Few mourn the Taleban in Kabul's busy markets

But some have begun questioning the commitment of the United States towards Afghanistan's long-term security and interest.

Many Afghans who fled the country returned home, women went back to school and work.

Music, banned under the Taleban's strict interpretation of Islam, now blares from every street corner.

But the sense of normality is tenuous at best.

Reports pour in of increased violence from the provinces, especially in former Taleban strongholds in the south and along the Pakistan border in the east.

Many have begun to feel that not enough is being done to extend the relative safety of Kabul to other parts of the country.

'Al-Qaeda obsession'

Afghan politician Ishaq Gailani, who belongs to one of the country's most influential religious families, is a prominent critic of the Hamid Karzai-led government.

Ishaq Gailani
This is a weak government and it has no control over the provinces
Ishaq Gailani
Opposition politician

He believes that the United States is too caught up in tracking down members of Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda organisation.

"We want the Americans to do something constructive for the Afghan people," says Mr Gailani.

"All they are interested in is their pursuit of al-Qaeda - which is basically a military objective."

It is a sentiment that is shared by some on the streets of the Afghan capital.

"They are not interested in the welfare of the ordinary Afghan," says one man who describes himself as a lawyer.

"That is why all their operations are against the militant forces in the mountains. They are so busy looking for al-Qaeda that they cannot see what is under their nose.

"This is a weak government and it has no control over the provinces. Factions are springing up everywhere - it is going to be a repeat of 1992 [when all the warlords starting fighting each other]."

But it is a point of view which runs into stiff opposition.

Back in business

It is busy in the market square at the heart of Kabul as traders loudly hawk their wares, restaurants do brisk business and shiny new shops sell smuggled consumer goods.

Kabul shoeshiners
As long as they secure Afghanistan they secure our future
Kabul shoeshine man

"The situation has improved drastically since the Americans came here two years ago," says a shoeshine man.

"Just look at this place - people have money to spend, we are not going hungry anymore."

Across from him is Farid, who sells the latest Afghan and Indian music.

"I lost my job when the Taleban took over Kabul. Their defeat was the best thing that happened to me," he says.

"Now I am back in business thanks to the Americans and the international security forces. As long as they secure Afghanistan they secure our future."

But the debate on the Taleban refuses to go away.

In recent comments the Afghan Government and the Americans have said that the Taleban is trying its best to overthrow the present administration.

Talking to the Taleban

But others argue that a distinction should be drawn between al-Qaeda and the Taleban which, they say, is made up of Afghans.

Ahmad Shah Ahmadzai, a former Afghan prime minister, says al-Qaeda was a "completely Arab organisation" and no Afghans were "terrorists".

The Afghan Government, he argues, has little choice but to reach out to all anti-government forces such as the Taleban and the Hizb-e-Islami party of former warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.

"When the Taleban was in power the Northern Alliance complained that the Taleban were not ready to sit down with us and negotiate," he says.

"Now they find themselves in the same position."

Mr Ahmadzai says the Taleban cannot be "eliminated" and therefore should be drawn into "the circle of peace" through talks.

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