But that is not the whole story. Most of the armed conflicts between the international security forces and the Taliban have occurred in rural areas. Afghans living outside the cities would welcome the departure of the Americans and the return of the Talib because this might actually mean a calmer life. By contrast, it is their urban counterparts, who have only occasionally had to experience suicide terror attacks, who are likely to be far more concerned about what the return of a harsh application of Islamic law would mean.
The peace that never comes
Most urban Afghans who are still active on social media instead of packing and attempting to flee the country, appreciate very much the attention that their situation has attracted around the world. At the same time, they find being in the global spotlight to be a perplexing paradox. They wonder what has changed to warrant the international community’s sudden all-consuming interest – the 24-7 blanket media coverage is a measure of that – after turning only cold, indifferent eyes on the country over the last few years.
To most observers outside Afghanistan, the departure of the US and the return of the notorious Taliban are replete with symbolism, given the history of the American invasion in 2001 after the 9/11 terror attacks. Americans, especially those in the military who served in Afghanistan, are haunted by the ghosts of Vietnam and the debacle of that war which ended nearly 50 years ago. It is discomfiting for anyone to watch a country, a society, descend into what many fear could be a devastating civil war.
But ordinary Afghans have known that the joint operations of their government’s military and US soldiers would never gain full control of the country. The Taliban remained a force to reckon with even after the US toppled them from power and began its occupation. Armed conflict never really ended in 2001. For Afghans, it has been a feature of daily life – and a source of exhausting fear, whether it be of a night raid on their village by international forces or of a bomb exploding on a city roadside.