- "This is clear," said one diplomat,
who added that there are around 700,000 armed people in Afghanistan. "They
have the culture of the Kalashnikov. They don't want to lay down their
(AFP) - Just 10 weeks after the Taliban fled Kabul city, Afghans are already
starting to say they felt safer under the now-defeated hardline militia
than under the power-sharing interim administration that has replaced it.
Murders, robberies and hijackings in the capital, factional clashes in
the north and south of the country, instability in Kandahar and banditry
on roads linking main centres are beginning to erode the optimism that
greeted the inauguration of the interim administration on December 22.
Senior United Nations official Francesc Vendrell said there were "reasons
for concern" over the security situation in Afghanistan.
"There are hundreds of thousands of people with weapons," said
Vendrell, deputy to the UN special envoy to Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi.
"There are various armed groups who do not respond yet to central
command. There are forces from various commanders facing each other in
places such as the north."
He said the situation in the south of the country was still "unclear"
and it could take up to 30,000 international troops to secure the main
towns and cities and the potholed tracks that pass as highways in the war-battered
The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) is limited to 4,500
troops and restricted to the Kabul area to protect the new interim government
during its six-month lifespan.
In Kabul, where a night-time curfew is still in place, shots and explosions
are often heard after dark. Residents reported three people murdered on
Last week "an incendiary device" exploded against one of the
walls surrounding the tightly guarded United States embassy in Kabul, spokesman
John Kincannon said, adding that no damage was caused.
The owner of a jewellery store in the city centre told AFP he did not feel
safe at night as armed men allied to one or other of the many military
commanders who fought against the Taliban are wont to take over the streets
"We cannot sleep well during the night, fearing someone may enter
the house," said the jeweller, who would not be named.
"The only good thing about the Taliban militia was that they provided
us with security," he said.
Madena (eds: one name), an Afghan woman buying gold earrings in the jewellery
store, said her brothers and cousins had taken to standing guard at their
house at night, something they never did during the rigid rule of the Taliban,
which held public executions and amputations to deter crime.
She blamed the insecurity on the presence of armed men working as private
soldiers for the military commanders, the poor state of the economy and
lack of punishment for culprits.
Diplomatic sources in Kabul said there was a definite increase in instability
"This is clear," said one diplomat, who added that there are
around 700,000 armed people in Afghanistan. "They have the culture
of the Kalashnikov. They don't want to lay down their arms."
Some parts of the capital have become no-go zones while residents everywhere
were careful to lock their doors at night.
"People don't feel safe, so they welcome the presence of ISAF,"
the diplomat said.
Kabul police chief Abdul Basir Khan Salangi denied there was insecurity
in the city, saying those claiming the opposite were "enemies and
those who want to defame the government."
He said the Afghan police force was in total control of the situation.
Salangi acknowledged, however that he was only "about 80 percent"
satisfied with security in the capital and that his force had only 10 to
12 patrol vehicles, when it needed about 250.
Security concerns in other parts of the country were heightened this week
when Syed Noorullah, deputy to ethnic Uzbek warlord Abdul Rashid Dostam,
told AFP fighting had erupted in recent days around Qala-e-Zal, 60 kilometres
(37 miles) northwest of Kunduz.
An intelligence service source told AFP Thursday two rival tribal leaders
in the southeastern city of Khost were engaged in a power struggle which
threatened to erupt into open fighting.
Afghan reconstruction minister Amin Farhang has said the administration
would "pay any price" to maintain security in the country. Reconstruction
would be impossible without security, he added.
Copyright © 2002 AFP. All rights reserved.