Local Afghans’ Views on War

U.S. Army 1st Lt. Shawn Meno stands guard outside a meeting between reconstruction officials and members of a local Kuchi tribe residing in Bawka District in Farah province, Afghanistan, June 12, 2010 (Image: Rylan K. Albright / US Army)

By Alexandra ArkinAs NATO ponders its Afghanistan legacy and future, so, too, do many of the Afghans who have made Chicago their new home.

The authorMultimedia journalist Alexandra Arkin has written about human rights, war crimes, international criminal law, immigrants, politics, health and science, and energy and the environment. She speaks French, Spanish and Chinese, and received both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in December 2011.


And their much divided concerns do not differ greatly from those raised by NATO’s members, who will be considering their organization’s commitment to Afghanistan at their Chicago summit.

Some say life may be worse in Afghanistan after 10 years of NATO and U.S. presence. They say the government that replaced the Taliban is corrupt and not likely to garner the glue to keep the country together.

Some blame the Pashtuns — Afghanistan’s largest ethnic group, who also make up the majority of the government — for letting the government’s problems accumulate. Others, however, blame foreign governments for their role in helping to bring the Karzai government to power after the Taliban fell.

There are complaints that the Karzai government allocates more resources and money to certain regions of Afghanistan, while others remain impoverished. There is a conviction that lingering poverty and the lack of work has led desperate Afghanis to join the Taliban or other groups offering money and support.

At the same time, some say that NATO and the US have wrought changes that have improved Afghanis’ lives in many ways. They say Afghanis have learned to live with a fragile peace with the Taliban no longer in power. They point to the rebuilding that has taken place.

What will happen after NATO withdraws its armed forces in 2014 and assumes a supporting role?

Some fear that fighting will erupt among ethnic groups vying for political power, or that foreign countries will fund a proxy war among the ethnicities.

Chicago's South Asian and Central Asian communities cluster on Devon Avenue. (Image: Umar Nasir CC-by-nc-nd)

Chicago’s Afghan community

The Chicago metropolitan area has a small Afghan community, less than 1,000 persons with links to Afghanistan, according the U.S. Census Bureau. Of these only 300 live in the city with the remaining two-thirds scattered throughout the suburbs.

Omid Taqaddosi, an electronics technician who came to the US in 2001, is one of those who fears the future. He predicts that the post-NATO era will be worse than before the 2001 invasion, because the Taliban and government will unite.

“Since 2006, (the government) has been calling the Taliban to join them,” he said. Politicians “feel they will lose power. That’s why they invite the Taliban and radicals to join them in the government.”

But Nasir Raufi, owner of the Afghan Kabob restaurant who has lived in the US for 30 years, thinks a new government should include the Taliban, because they are Afghans too, and he doesn’t think the hard-line Islamic group will be able to do as much damage as they did before.

Reflecting a similar theme as the U.S. and some of its NATO allies, some of the Chicago area Afghanis believe it is not too late for their troubled nation to rebuild itself without violence.

Raufi, for example, has faith that Afghans will have successful elections and create a truly democratic government. “People now understand that war will not resolve anything,” he said.

Speakers at an Afghans for Peace event in Oakland. (Image: Shadi Rahimi / World Can't Wait CC-by)

Afghans for Peace

Fatima “Afghan,” an activist in Oakland, California with Afghans for Peace, said Afghans can sort out their own problems if allowed to do so without foreign intervention. She asked that her full name not be used.

While saying that a civil war raging today in Afghanistan, she is nonetheless hopeful about Afghanistan’s youth.

“A lot of young people in Afghanistan are very passionate about doing something for their people,” she said. “Despite the odds, there’s a lot of resilience.”

Afghans agree that any U.S. and NATO forces that remain after 2014 to assist Afghan troops must do more than simply build bases.

NATO’s future role, if any, should be one of disarmament, said Fatima Afghan. NATO forces must de-escalate the situation to undo the damage wrought by decades of foreign presence.

Ghulam Alemi, a cab driver, said the U.S. must stop terrorist groups from growing and spreading, especially because such groups are the result of the U.S.’s own Cold War policies.

But Afghans agree an ongoing occupation by foreign forces will only result in one thing: no end to the war.

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