South Asia

Kandahar diary: Caught up in the battle

An Afghan elder and a boy listen to US army soldiers, Arghandab Valley, 11 Sept 2010
Image caption An Afghan elder and a boy listen to US army soldiers

Sajeed (not his real name), a development worker in Kandahar city, describes the challenges of daily life in the Taliban stronghold. The security situation has changed for the worse in the past few months.

"People were expecting a massive military operation in Kandahar and the surrounding areas but there seems to have been a change of mind on behalf of the government and the foreign forces.

They've realised that such an operation would cause the displacement of thousands of families from the rural areas. They'd have to escape to the city where they would endure lack of basic facilities.

They've decided to focus on expanding governance in far away districts instead. But whatever they do, people in those areas are not safe.

A nearby district called Dand, which shares borders with the city, has been badly affected by insurgency. Many people who were accused of working or co-operating with the government, aid agencies or foreign forces, have been captured and beheaded.

We've heard that there were foreigners among the insurgents, some having the leading command. There are said to be explosive experts from Pakistan, engaged in daily battles using small firearms and rocket-propelled grenades.

Hundreds of families were forced to move to Kandahar city. They say the insurgents told them that they were going to plant a large number of mines.

An operation against the insurgents started a couple of weeks ago. It was hailed as a success by the government as it pushed them out of the area.

Image caption A US army soldier fires as Combat Outpost Nolen came under Taliban attack

Some of the displaced people have since returned, but many are scared to go back because of the mines.

Those who have returned are faced with an unpleasant situation. During daylight, the clearance teams are patrolling the area and getting rid of the mines. They also knock on doors and ask locals for any information they might have on the insurgents.

During night-time, the insurgents roam the area, knock on doors and interrogate people about what the forces are up to. They also ask for food and shelter.

Currently there are ongoing operations in Arghandab, Zerai and Panjwai districts. Many people from those areas have had to move to the city with bare hands. It's very difficult for these people.

Afghan people are poor, but those living in rural areas are poorest of all. Most are sharing houses with relatives as they don't have money to rent houses.

There are rumours that certain individuals are making lots of money as hit men - they charge around $1,000 (£640) for a common person and up to $7,000 for a high-ranking official. They are the same people who used to rob people at gunpoint. Their business is the gun.

As Kandahar is a war zone now, it's easy to run such a business. They are hired by people with personal disputes and even by insurgents. This is the most shocking news for ordinary people here.

The insurgents are trying to show their increased strength through face-to-face battles on police checkpoints, attacks with improvised exploding devices and target shooting. The insurgents and their supporters seem to think that they are now in the position to make the government accept their conditions to withdraw forces from their targeted areas.

Many people think that the government should open a platform for peace discussions to stop the insurgency where civilians are at threat. But local governments don't have the authority and capability to make this happen."