Bamiyan Fears for Future with NZ Troops Gone

‘There are New Zealand soldiers, so there is no Taliban. When they leave, the Taliban for sure will return,’ Ibrahim Chaman, a resident of Bamiyan, Afghanistan, told reporter Emma Graham- Harrison of The Guardian. Harrison was in Bamiyan to report on what its residents think the future holds for them now that the New Zealand military have withdrawn from the province. Harrison begins her account noting that Baymiyan’s residents, ‘by and large…not only tolerated but welcomed the [New Zealand] military base that [had] perched on the outskirts of their small town. That affection made it an unusual, perhaps unique outpost in Nato’s web of sprawling camps…across the country, often resented by the people they aimed to protect,’ says Graham -Harrison. ‘The bases ‘closure in April was equally singular, with New Zealand’s head of state and what seemed like half the country’s government flown out…to say goodbye to a valley that has firmly etched itself into the consciousness of the distant nation,’ she writes. ‘Commanders of other bases have kept their demise low-key, with troops slipping away into the night…By contrast, the late afternoon ceremony in Bamiyan was packed with journalists. After solemn tributes to 10 fallen soldiers, the gathering dusk echoed with optimistic speeches from officials highlighting improvements in healthcare, agriculture and education brought by foreign troops and their cash, and the growing strength of local security forces’. But, Graham-Harrison writes, the departure of the New Zealanders now means that ‘shadows of a more ominous kind’ are now ‘gathering over the quiet valley. ‘Bamiyan is a magical place’, writes Graham-Harrison. ‘But where the ghosts of long-lost power and opulence haunt a valley of spectacular natural beauty… is also haunted by more recent specters, memories of those killed in Taliban massacres barely a decade ago. Home to a heavily persecuted ethnic and religious minority, it has remained one of the safest places in Afghanistan, partly because the memory of that suffering fuels profound hostility towards the insurgency. But hostility to the insurgency may no longer be enough to protect Bamiyan’s residents, says Graham-Harrison. This is because, with the withdrawal of foreign troops, ‘the insurgency has spread and violence [has] lapped steadily closer to this virtual island of calm… First one, then both roads to Kabul became a dangerous lottery. The head of the provincial council, who had done much to help development in a desperately poor area, was abducted and slaughtered in 2011. The security of the province itself was next to crumble, with fighters pushing in heavily from the east but also testing boundaries to the west. Half of the New Zealand troops killed in combat during the decade-long mission died last August in the Do Ab area bordering Baghlan province, and their April departure was six months earlier than originally planned,’ Graham-Harrison writes.  Those left behind fear for their future. ‘I don’t see any Taliban in Bamiyan, but when the foreign soldiers leave they will return and be strong,’ Haider Mohammad told The  Guardian. Watching as preparations for the New Zealand farewell ceremony got under way, he added: ‘When they go, I will leave as well.’


Tags: Afganistan  Baglan  Bamiyan  Emma Graham-Harrison  Guardian (The)  NATO  New Zealand Army  Taliban  

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