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Page last updated at 10:00 GMT, Wednesday, 9 April 2008 11:00 UK

Afghans speak: Dangers and security

Afghanistan - provinces map

Several nations committed extra troops to Afghanistan at a Nato summit in Bucharest last week.

The BBC asked people from four Afghan provinces for their views on security there and the impact of foreign troops.

Kandahar

Herat
Balkh

Ghazni

KANDAHAR PROVINCE: Anwar Imitiyaz, student

Stallholders cook bread and fish in Kandahar city

The first thing people need here is security. People are unwilling to go out and about, even to go shopping.

There is a divide in Kandahar. Those who live in the centre, in the city, are the ones who may have lived abroad and who are familiar with foreign cultures.

The poor security in this area is because of the Kandaharis who come from the rural areas and visit the centre during the day.

These people dwell in villages and they are strict. They are willing to live their lives by the Taleban rules. They form part of the security threat.

The insurgents that cause bomb blasts come from these districts, they enter the city and cause insurgency and then melt back into villages.

Insurgent activity

This is the problem the security forces face: they can't distinguish insurgents from ordinary city dwellers. Insurgents come to the city, put on city clothes and fade in by imitating the culture of those in the city.

But really these insurgents resent me just as much if not more than they hate Americans.

They think people like us are the people who caused the problems of Afghanistan. They think the Americans are here because of us. This is because I am educated and I work for a foreign organisation

So I have had to change my figure, my style of talking and walking to fit in with the look of the rural area.

Anwar Imitiyaz
Anwar has had to change how he walks and dresses because of security fears

Every person living in the city is looking to find a way to go abroad or leave town: here there are bomb blasts, insurgents, sick people, tribal hostilities.

The insurgency for Kandaharis means more than bomb blasts. It means shooting, kidnap and robbery. Foreign troops make no difference to that. What can they do?

If anything, they cause problems. All of this happens because foreign troops are present. I don't believe they provide any security to the people.

The fight against the insurgents is also managed poorly. Foreign troops and Afghan troops don't co-ordinate well. Every activity being run inside and outside the city is directed by foreign troops.

In Kandahar we feel under threat. We look around and wonder if the situation will change.

GHAZNI PROVINCE: M Zaki Shahamat, journalist

US soldiers take a break from a mission in Ghazni province

Ghazni is a mixed province home to many of Afghanistan's different ethnic tribes. We have Hazara, Pashtun and many Sikhs as well. Life should be harmonious.

But the Taleban have announced an insurgency in this province.

While national and international organisations do try to reconstruct life here, Ghazni does not get the kind of help that Kandahar and Helmand does. There is little comparison when looking at the level of aid.

There are American troops stationed in the centre of the province on the outskirts of the city. It is very difficult to see what development work they have undertaken.

Ghazni is largely an agricultural province. People live in villages in the outlying districts and lead a rural life. They farm potatoes and keep animals. The standard of life is low.

The top priority as far as I am concerned is road construction. People have little access to the centre and to the city.

Taleban searches

My father has a shop in Ghazni city which sells car products and spare parts. But my family lives in Jaghori district. It takes three hours to get to the centre of the province even though the distance is not great. The road is in a terrible condition and there are Taleban militants on the way.

Zaki Shahamat
M Zaki Shahamat believes road construction is critical for Ghazni's future

Sometimes the Taleban stop the car and search it. If they find anything that shows you support the government they might kill you, they could easily put a bullet through your head. Last year my father's car was stopped. The Taleban did not find anything so he was not hurt.

People have to be very careful about what they carry - they shouldn't have identity cards, passports, voting cards, they shouldn't have cosmetics.

There are many things that the Taleban hate.

Because of the roads and the trouble getting to and from the city my father goes to the shop about once a fortnight and stays for 10-15 days. Many people are forced into such a lifestyle because of the roads.

Foreign troops do very little in the outlying districts. When they do get out of the city, they do not aim to provide security to the people.

They sometimes carry out unpopular operations. At night they search homes for suspected terrorists or foreigners.

They have their own strategy.

BALKH PROVINCE: Naqeeb Poya, television producer

Naqeeb Poya
Naqeeb Poya says Balkh is one of the safest provinces

I have lived in Balkh ever since I was born. I stayed here even during the Taleban days.

Over the past few years, this has been the safest place in the country. We have seen a lot of reconstruction programmes. I believe the situation here is good and everyone is happy.

There are still insurgents and militants in some places. They use different tactics these days.

In Mazar-e-Sharif city, there is strong security presence. The police are supported by the Polish forces and they are well equipped.

Because of this relative safety, when I go to other provinces I really do feel the fear.

International forces are needed and I would vote for them to stay for longer. They are a very important part of the area.

Six years ago when the Taleban was here, I didn't feel secure. I was not allowed to even let my hair grow. That was banned. I couldn't wear jeans. I wasn't even allowed to go in a university.

Now I have a job, I have almost graduated from university. Before I couldn't do anything I wanted, now we have television and I even produce a programme.

My mother is a teacher. When the Taleban were here she was not working. Now she can go to school. She is free and she doesn't have to wear a burqa.

HERAT PROVINCE: Anonymous man

Life in Herat has changed a lot since a year ago. The security situation has deteriorated.

The lawless situation in Herat has put people on high alert. Everyone is so stressed

Life has become more difficult for the middle classes because of lower incomes, inflation and corruption - even in the government we believe. Business has gone down and there has been almost no investment for a year.

Then there is the fear of domestic crime. There have been abduction cases targeting wealthy and influential people, industrialists and businessmen.

This has engulfed Herati society so much in fear that no one feels secure at any given time. It is even worse when it becomes obvious that the security forces have been involved in certain crimes and when the negligence of officials in Kabul is laid bare.

The activities of a gang of a few criminals has become a growing concern for the community.

Daily fear

As an ordinary person in Herat, I don't dare have a dispute with anyone whether or not I am right, because I am afraid of these groups and I know there is no one to protect me. Some people have sold their cars and bought cheap ones to avoid unnecessary attention.

Seven years ago, people were extremely positive about the deployment of international forces and everyone felt like the bad days had come to an end.

I am thankful to the international forces who sacrifice their lives to bring peace for us. I, however, believe that those deployed in Herat did not manage as well as they could have if they had better understanding of the situation.

The position of international community in general and foreign forces in particular is not at all clear to me. There is neither a clear strategy on fighting the so-called terrorism nor on assisting Afghan government.

The Taleban insurgency is not the major concern for people. It is general lawlessness that has put people on high alert. Everyone is so stressed.

Our favourite discussion points are how to leave Afghanistan and what to do if the situation deteriorates.




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