Rough year ahead for Afghanistan as peace remains elusive

As Afghan security forces struggle to gain control after the withdrawal of NATO troops, the nation's citizens fear a tougher and bloodier year ahead.

KABUL: Afghan President Ashraf Ghani is hoping to finalise a 25-member ministerial team for his coalition government.

He has been at loggerheads with rival, Abdullah Abdullah, who was made Chief Executive in a power sharing deal to end a bitter dispute over the election result.

The consequent political limbo has increased the unease felt by the population as NATO ends combat operations, leaving the Afghan army and police in charge of security.

When filmmaker Mina Rezai went to see a show at Kabul's French cultural institute titled Silence after the Explosion, she never imagined that the performance would be brought to an abrupt end by a real explosion after a suicide bomber detonated himself.

"We were half way through the performance, when we heard an explosion mixed with light and fire,” she said. “I shouted that it is a suicide attack, but we were so shocked that for a minute we thought it was part of the show."

Mina, along with her friends, escaped unhurt but there were many who have been less fortunate. 2014 was not only the bloodiest year of the war for Afghanistan's security personnel, but also for its civilians. According to a recent UN report, almost 10,000 civilians have been killed or wounded.

Hamed Rahimi was one of them. The 22-year-old student of fine arts at Kabul University, was injured in one of the recent spate of suicide attacks. He was watching a theatre show when an audience member five metres away detonated himself.

One month on, he remains deeply traumatised and is fearful in public places. "It was my first time in such a situation - I didn't know what I should do,” said Hamed. "Sometimes when I hear the sound of a door closing or some people making some noise I feel like I'm at the the event and am shocked all over again."

The Taliban have taken advantage of the power vacuum left following the withdrawal of NATO troops and Afghan citizens are their targets. Foreign guesthouses, restaurants, cafes and Afghan army convoys have all been victims of Taliban attacks.

Some politicians are blaming neighbouring Pakistan for using political instability in Afghanistan. "There is no doubt that our neighbour Pakistan provides military and economic support to the Taliban," said Alhaj Mirdad Nijrab, Member or Parliament and head of the Internal Security Commission. "The Taliban leadership are nurtured there. They use the Taliban fighters for their own geopolitical reasons".

The regional players may be fighting it out between themselves, but on the streets of Kabul ordinary people are trying to get on with their lives in the shadows of war. Suicide bomb attacks have become part of the ordinary fabric of life for many Afghans. As security forces struggle to gain control after the withdrawal of NATO troops, the nation's citizens fear a tougher and bloodier year ahead.

- CNA/ec



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