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Thursday, 22 November, 2001, 11:01 GMT
Fear and freedom in Kabul
Kabul
Northern Alliance troops patrol Kabul

Since the Northern Alliance took over Kabul, vehicles packed with heavily armed soldiers in their new brown uniforms rush around the city.

Troops are highly visible at road intersections and government buildings.

Before the Taleban left, life in Kabul was relatively calm as people went about their daily business, going to bazaars.

Scramble at Kabul cinema
There was a scramble to enter the city's newly opened cinema

What you did not see were Taleban soldiers - most of them were busy on the front lines.

There have been other, more superficial, changes.

A very, very small number of women can now be seen without their burqas.

Among the men - who always had to wear long beards under the Taleban - a few have completely shaved them off. A few younger men are now clean shaven, but the older men generally are not.

They have trimmed their beards progressively, a little bit more each day, and they joke that eventually they will shave them all off.

Music in the streets

Out on the streets, music blasts from shops, which was unknown under the Taleban who considered music un-Islamic.

Afghan women in Kabul
Many women have not yet removed their burqas

There are large queues of people at cassette shops wanting to buy music, and a cinema has opened in town. Afghans like enjoying themselves and they have had little chance to really let their hair down.

At the cinema, the first films shown were all about fighting. But now they are getting back to the Hindi, Bollywood films which were always very popular in Kabul.

The mood among the people, though, is not optimistic.

Before the Taleban left, most people I spoke to were very worried about the factions of the Northern Alliance returning to the city.

Under the alliance's reign, half the city was flattened, and tens of thousands of innocent civilians were killed. That was the worst time that people in Kabul can ever remember.

Road 'totally unsafe'

Now Kabul residents worry that fighting will return if all these various groups cannot agree to form a broad-based transitional government.

Looting a Kabul warehouse
Tuesday saw Kabul residents looting aid warehouses

Since the Taleban left, robberies and looting have increased, car theft has risen and there are more armed men on the streets.

Many ethnic Hazaras, who are heavily armed, live in the south-west of the city.

Worryingly, they support a faction which does not have any share in the government at the moment.

And already to the east of Kabul, fighting has erupted.

The main road from Pakistan to Kabul is totally unsafe. Four journalists were killed travelling along it three days ago.

Will food get in?

Many people support the formation of a large international force in Afghanistan, and quickly.

The faction that has taken control in central Kabul is the last thing that many want.

And that is why delicate negotiations are under way with the British Government about the deployment of several thousand British troops in the area.

Since the Taleban were removed from areas around the main road between Pakistan and Kabul, hardly any food aid has got in because the route is so unstable.

There are enough food stocks to last a few weeks, but there are doubts that aid will be able to get through.

See also:

13 Nov 01 | South Asia
Kabul falls to Northern Alliance
13 Nov 01 | South Asia
In pictures: Opposition takes Kabul
13 Nov 01 | South Asia
Pakistan concern at Kabul's fall
13 Nov 01 | South Asia
Analysis: The Taleban collapse
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