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Afghanistan

Afghanistan - searching for hope 11 years on

A coalition of international forces marched into Afghanistan on October 7, 2001. Eleven years later, many in Afghanistan and elsewhere are disappointed with the war that started out with such good intention.

American and British troops went into Afghanistan to drive out the Islamist Taliban terror regime. They were later joined by an international coalition of troops under NATO's command. And it did not take long to throw the jihadists out of power and out of the country. Afghanistan, and most of the international community, celebrated the mission as a 'good war' that was meant to serve the liberation of the Afghan people.

Ahmad Shah, a resident of the Afghan capital, Kabul, remembers vividly:

Afghan women cast votes in Gereshk district of Helmand province, Afghanistan.09, 05, 2012; Photo: DW/Ruhollah Elham

Afghan women were finally allowed to vote

"On the day the Taliban were driven out, people took on a different awareness. It felt like a rebirth. At every corner of the city people were dancing. Beards were shaved off, hair was cut. For everybody it was if we were born again."

Flush with optimism

The new beginning was full of optimism. The country's development moved forward rapidly. A new government was installed and girls went back to school. For the Afghans, the new range of possibilities seemed endless.

Shah Hussain Mortazavi, a political analyst and journalist for a well-known Afghan daily, thinks that Afghanistan in the last few years, compared to the rest of its history, has witnessed many achievements.

A group of twenty one former Taliban militants after surrendering their weapons during a reconciliation ceremony in Herat, Afghanistan, 14 July 2012. Photo: EPA/JALIL REZAYEE +++(c) dpa - Bildfunk+++

Afghans worry that former Taliban fighters could re-emerge

"We have a modern constitution, a legitimate president, an elected parliament, a lively media landscape, press freedom is improving and there is an active civil society. Instead of just one voice, society is speaking with many voices," Mortazavi told DW.

Shaky security

But not everyone sees the developments in Afghanistan as positive. Many Afghans complain about a societal regression and failures of the international community. In particular, the tense security situation is a key reason why many Afghans, like Akhtar Mohammad from the Taliban stronghold Kandahar, have lost much of their initial optimism and now reject the Afghan mission.

"Nobody has any work here and you see many young people without jobs. We hoped that factories would be built for us to create jobs, but instead we're unemployed," Mohammad explained to DW.

"There are schools but the students are not learning much. The teachers are not teaching properly because they don't earn enough. The few schools there are, are in the city and not in the [outlying] districts. In all of Kandahar, we only have one hospital and it's supposed to serve four other provinces. When the foreigners cut off their funding, this hospital will also close."

Worried about the future

With the scheduled withdrawal of international forces, beginning in 2014, many Afghans fear that the situation will get a lot worse. Akhtar Mohammad said he was concerned about security and a possible civil war which could erupt after the pullout. The new Afghan state is not functioning very effectively, nor is it particularly democratic, according to Thomas Ruttig, an Afghanistan expert with the Afghan Analyst network. Eleven years later, things were not very positive, he said.

"The warlords have the upper hand and many people feel excluded. The Afghan government and the various components belonging to it are also exerting a lot of brute force, which, in the polarized atmosphere, leads to many people to choose the Taliban as an option."

For a number of people, the euphoria that came with the collapse of the Taliban regime has dissipated. The withdrawal of NATO troops in 2014 leaves many wondering what will happen to the country that 11 years ago had looked to the future with so much optimism.

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