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Page last updated at 10:59 GMT, Monday, 24 November 2008

Voices from unstable borders

Pakistan-Afghanistan map
Despite being driven from power, a resurgent Taleban is at large in parts of Afghanistan and militants are still active in tribal areas along the Pakistani-Afghan border.

Here, people in the some of the most restive regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan talk about security and militancy where they live.

KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN

One Kandahari resident, Asif, says villagers in outlying districts are often forced to co-operate with the Taleban.

There is Taleban activity in districts outside Kandahar city like Panjwayi, Maywand, Zhari, Shah Walikot and Arghandab district.

The people who live where the Taleban live have to support them but this does not mean that people like them. The Taleban want food and accommodation from locals. If Nato forces attack or an air strike is called in, the Taleban escape but the local people suffer.

I have heard that the Taleban have small groups in the villages, they are not organised, not under one command and the villagers say they do not have one strategy.

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The cost of living is high here. I know that in some cases, people are going to join military forces - either the government or the Taleban - because they need to feed their families.



Nobody likes the Taleban here. They took the people of the south by force. This year is the worst in recent times. I remember when we could go to any district in Kandahar with no fear. Now we cannot travel.


Popal, a telecoms worker, says people have deserted the districts surrounding the city of Kandahar.

The militants are not threatening any civilians in the city. Only those who work for international organisations or the government receive threatening letters.

I come from the Durai area where Isaf [Nato-led] and Canadian forces are working near the main roads and the situation is very bad. Roadside attacks are very common and people are killed almost daily. It makes people afraid of going out of town and onto the roads.

There is a village called Pashimol which is particularly disturbed and I recently heard of heavy fighting there.

The insurgents wait outside the city to attack by night. They seem to be almost everywhere. They want to terrorise and this is very easy for them. The police are only deployed around the city.

So the people who live outside the city have a very difficult life. Many of them have just come to Kandahar because life is more secure now here.

Most of the outlying districts are now empty.


Anwar says life is dangerous for those Afghans working for international companies and coalition forces.

Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers and policemen stand guard at the site of two suicide attacks in Kandahar on September 7, 2008
There are still security threats in Kandahar city
The districts next to the city feel the presence of the Taleban and no one dares work with the government or international NGOs. People even feel afraid to openly admire their activities in case of retaliation by insurgents.

If you work for yourself and keep a low profile you have no worries. But for people who work with the government and coalition forces you must keep an even lower profile. Those Afghans will be on the insurgents' blacklist.

Life is tough. We hear of killing and kidnappings. We can't make any long term plans - we just have to live life day by day.

The situation is worse than last year because insurgents are using new techniques to warn people not to help the government, coalition forces or NGOs. People are seeking ways to leave the country.

KUNAR, AFGHANISTAN

Mohammed says the real danger in Kunar province follows the US soldiers.

Life in Asadabad, the capital of Kunar, seems pretty normal. But if you go to rural areas, there is violence. It is not so quiet there. I can't really talk about that because I generally remain in the centre of Kunar. In the city, I have seen very little violence in recent times.

It is hard to tell what is happening out in the districts. When I have been to rural areas I haven't seen anything myself. Here in the centre we get bad news and good news about development activities - life is as we would have expected it as residents.

But we know that there is real trouble in certain districts, where the American soldiers operate. Every time the American soldiers go somewhere bombs begin to blast.

SWAT VALLEY, PAKISTAN

Najaf, a resident of Swat valley, says locals are now fighting the militants themselves.

This has been the seventh day in a row that we have had curfew in our village.

The locals say that if the militants come to their area, the army targets their places
Najaf
The people they call Taleban militants move freely in the area. They are at large and move among the population.

We were expecting that after Musharraf left the tension would ease and there would be no more attacks and clashes between the militants and the army. But things are going from bad to worse.

People are terrified and they are dead against the army because hundreds of civilians have been killed in these operations.

There is a place about 20-25km away from us where local people have been fighting with the militants. The army hasn't even got there yet but people are so angry. The locals say that if the militants come to their area, the army targets their places and then they suffer.

That is why these people have come out of their area and are trying to remove militants from this area themselves.

People are very scared, they have been migrating from this area.


Akash says militants roam freely in his part of Swat valley.

The situation is very bad. People are very worried. The behaviour of the government is very bad. Innocent people have been killed.

There are a lot of al-Qaeda people in our village as well as security forces. They hurt one another. In the middle of it all innocent people have died. But the militants go freely from one village to another.

About one month ago there was a bomb blast near my house. The government said the Taleban were there - but they were not. The wrong people are dying.

People from my village don't even want to talk about the militants because they are so worried.

I was born in Swat and now there is no education. My school is damaged. There is curfew all the time. I am at home now. College is closed. I am very tired of this. Many people are leaving the area. Neither the security forces nor the Taleban let us stay.

NORTH WAZIRISTAN, PAKISTAN

A student from North Waziristan says people in his village used to support the Taleban - but not any more.

Militants in Waziristan
A number of militant groups operate in Waziristan
These militants are not fighting for Islam or Pakistan. I don't know what the hell they are. They want to harm Pakistan.

My home is in a village in North Waziristan and I spend a lot of time there and I know the situation there well.

People are very worried. The majority are sick of the bombardments by the Pakistani army and sometimes the US army as well.

On one side the militants attack and from the other side the Pakistan army and the Americans attack. We don't know what to do.

This is a tribal area. In some ways this situation is not new for us. People have already suffered a lot. There is no government here but we live according to our own culture.

Everybody used to support the Taleban. Nowadays I don't think they do. Maybe 20%-40% of people support them. They are fighting and nobody knows why. They lost the support of the locals because of attacks on Pakistani civilians.

The real Taleban who I used to see were local people. They just wanted to fight anyone who harmed Islam. People were in favour of the Taleban in 2001.

That Taleban is now dead. The new Taleban are different. They target civilians. They are not serving Islam.

Some names have been changed to protect identities.



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