Warlords and criminals rife in a city weary of corruption
Citing the recent murder of a woman accused of adultery, she says: “They’ve gone to some of the most horrible types of violence, including shooting a woman dead in front of everybody’s eyes, without any kind of trial.”
Karzai’s attempts to broker talks with the Taliban make many uneasy, both in Afghanistan and in the West. But others support them, saying the war cannot be won on the battlefield. Abdul Hakim Mujahid, former Taliban envoy to the United Nations, and now a member of the High Peace Council, believes in talks. Mujahid is tall and imposing, and when he speaks, in English, his impressive intellect is on display. In traditional Afghan style, he insists we drink chai before we began the interview: “We must both be prepared, before we do battle.”
Mujahid explains the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan: “From the very beginning, the problem is the manipulation of power.”
The Pashtun people, the ethnic majority, have been excluded from power since the Taliban was toppled in 2001, he says. “I think the Taliban will not try to grab power unilaterally here in Afghanistan,” he says. “The only solution will be national participation in power.”
US secretary of state Hillary Clinton, in describing the US’s efforts to reach out to the Taliban for reconciliation, said: “This is not a pleasant business.” And yet they have pushed ahead with their efforts, leaving many Afghans aghast at the mere hint of a Taliban return.
In a more utilitarian house than most, with the ubiquitous blast walls and armed guards, I meet Amrullah Saleh. He is the founder of the National Movement, a pro-democracy and anti-Taliban political party. He is also the former head of the Afghan intelligence service. Vehemently opposed to what he calls a “policy of appeasement” towards the Taliban, Saleh says: “Just four days ago, the Taliban beheaded 17 people in the southern province of Helmand for having a musical party with two women. Perhaps it is banned in Islam, sure. But where in Islam it is said that you just cut their heads and chop it off?
“Why the West is saying we talk to the Taliban?” he asks, clearly infuriated. “What if the Taliban beheaded 17 Americans? Will the Americans still be pushing for reconciliation?”
John D McHugh is an Irish-born freelance photojournalist and film-maker who has worked extensively in Afghanistan since early 2006.
Tomorrow: Can the Afghan economy survive international withdrawal?