Death fails to bring hope to Afghans

While many welcome the news of bin Laden’s death, some residents of Kabul and beyond are left with little to celebrate.

tora bora
The death of Osama bin Laden is unlikely to bring peace to Afghanistan [GETTY/GALLO]

In Kabul, the Afghan capital, the streets are quieter than usual.

Nearly 10 years since the US launched its so-called ‘war on terror’ against al Qaeda, its leader Osama bin Laden has been killed in a mansion in Abbottabad, just north of the Pakistani capital, Islamabad. But unlike scenes in the US on Monday, Afghans are not yet publicly celebrating.

“Most people are really emotional now that he is killed, we are happy. At lunch everyone was congratulating each other, especially those who lived under the Taliban,” Shakib Shariffi, a 29-year-old Kabul resident, told Al Jazeera.

“But most people say they are also scared of any repercussions. The streets of Kabul not as busy as they usually are. People are worried there may be a reaction and that suicide bombers may come out on the streets.”

While for many across the US, the death of bin Laden will be seen as some kind of conclusion to a decade-long war, Afghans continue to live under the constant threat of violence from Taliban or al-Qaeda fighters, and a US and Nato campaign continues in the war-ravaged country.

Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, a former Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, told Al Jazeera the killing would not give “any fruit to the Americans or bring stability to the region. This is an ideological war. It was not just Osama bin Laden fighting,” he told Al Jazeera.

Dangerous country

Others also express little hope for the future.

“The assassination of bin Laden will not end our suffering, so al Qaeda will continue its terrorist attacks, the Taliban will continue their insurgency in Afghanistan,” Haroun Mir, the deputy director of Afghanistan’s Centre for Research and Policy Studies, said. 

“People are still afraid … it is still a dangerous country. A lot of people are afraid that al-Qaeda and the Taliban will take revenge for what has happened. We are under a permanent threat.

“The death of Osama bin Laden will not itself lead to lasting peace in this country.”

Ahmad Wali Massood, a former diplomat, expresses relief tempered by caution in interview to Al Jazeera

Mohammed Fahim Dashty, editor of the English-language newspaper Kabul Times, was badly injured by suspected al-Qaeda bombers two days before the September 11, 2001, attacks in the US, in an explosion that killed a national hero, Ahmad Shah Massood.

He does not believe the death of bin Laden will bring any short-term change, but that it might alter people’s attitudes to Afghanistan and the US-led operation against the Taliban.

“Most of the people were thinking that this war against terrorism was not a real war. Now I think this mindset has been changed.

“Afghans are also proud, because it has changed the global point of view [in relation to al-Qaeda].

“They have been saying that the al-Qaeda leader was in Pakistan, not Afghanistan, but there wasn’t any proof of that. But now they have that evidence.”

Ahmad Wali Massood, a brother of Ahmad Shah Massood and a former ambassador to Britain, said while he was “relieved” at the news of bin Laden’s death, it does not mean the end to the terror network in Afghanistan.

“By removing Osama bin Laden – that does not mean the structure has gone. Already the Taliban has established [something] almost similar to the al-Qaeda organisation and the organisation of their own cell,” Wali Massood told Al Jazeera during an interview in Kabul.

“If the US thinks its mission [against terrorism] is over… that’s mistaken. Probably that might be news for [US] public opinion, to announce a victorious end, but that doesn’t mean anything on account.”

Karzai’s view

Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, has pushed this view, saying on Monday that the discovery of bin Laden in Pakistan could show the world that his country is “not the place of terrorism”.

For “years and every day we have said that the war on terror is not in Afghan villages, not in Afghan houses of the poor and oppressed”, he said.

“The war against terrorism is in its sources, in its financial sources, its sanctuaries, in its training bases, not in Afghanistan”.

But Dashty said there were some in the Afghan government who would not welcome the announcement.

“Those who are pushing to make a deal with the Taliban will not be happy, because they see this as an obstacle to making a deal with them,” he said.

Mission accomplished?

Others also fear that the death of bin Laden will spell the end of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, having fulfilled one of their main missions.

Ahmad Shah Ahmadzai, a former prime minister of Afghanistan, told Al Jazeera the US had “no reason after this for their being in Afghanistan militarily.

“Now since Osama bin Laden is gone they have no excuse to leave their soldiers in Afghanistan any more”.

Some also worry about what the discovery of bin Laden near a military compound north of Pakistan’s capital will mean in terms of their future regional stability.

“Emotionally I am relieved but rationally I think this is a price Pakistan paid to gain the upper hand in Afghanistan,” Shariffi, the Kabul resident, said.

But for now, some are planning to honour the occasion, regardless of what the future holds, at a vigil around the tomb of Massoud.

“Many of my friends have been planning to go to the Panjshir Valley, the birthplace of Ahmad Shah Massoud,” Shariffi said.

“He is considered a national hero [for his role driving out the Soviet army from Afghanistan]. He is like Osama bin Laden’s arch rival. People are planing to go to his tomb, it’s a very symbolic gesture, they are planning to go praying and praising God.”

Source: Al Jazeera


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