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Hope with every one other accompanied by despair: Kathy Gannon on 35 years inside Afghanistan

Hope with every one other accompanied by despair: Kathy Gannon on 35 years inside Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The Afghan policeman opened blaze on us accompanied by his AK-47, emptying 26 bullets into the spine of the car. Seven slammed into me, with every one other accompanied by at least while numerous into my colleague, Associated Press photographer Anja Niedringhaus. She died at my side.

Anja weighed heavy opposed to my shoulder. I tried to look at her nevertheless I couldn't move. I looked down; all I could see was what looked exist fond of a stump where my left-hand hand had been. I could hardly whisper, "Please assist us."

Our driver raced us to a small local medical organization inside Khost, siren on. I tried to remain calm, intelligent over with every one other accompanied by over: "Don't exist afraid. Don't die afraid. Just breathe."

At the hospital, Dr. Abdul Majid Mangal said he would have to operate with every one other accompanied by tried to reassure me. His words are forever etched inside my heart: "Please know your existence is while important to me while it is to you."

Much later, while I recovered inside New York throughout a procedure that would turn not here to eventually need 18 operations, an Afghan friend called from Kabul. He wanted to say sorry for the shooting on behalf of all Afghans.

I said the shooter didn't symbolize a nation, a people. My cerebrum returned to Dr. Mangal – for me, it was him who represented Afghanistan with every one other accompanied by Afghans.

I have reported on Afghanistan for the AP for the past 35 years, throughout an extraordinary series of events with every one other accompanied by management changes that have rocked the world. Through it all, the kindliness with every one other accompanied by resilience of usual Afghans has shone into and not here of – which is too what has made it so sore to watch the slow erosion of their hope.

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Hope with every one other accompanied by despair: Kathy Gannon on 35 years inside Afghanistan

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I have always been amazed at how Afghans stubbornly hung on to hope opposed to all odds, greeting every one of some new regimes accompanied by optimism. But by 2018, a Gallup poll showed that the fraction of people inside Afghanistan accompanied by hope inside the future was the lowest at some time recorded anywhere.

It didn't have to exist this way.

___

I arrived inside Afghanistan inside 1986, inside the centre of the Cold War. It seems a lifetime ago. It is.

Then, the enemy attacking Afghanistan was the communist former Soviet Union, dubbed godless by United States President Ronald Reagan. The defenders were the U.S.-backed devout mujahedeen, defined while those who capture inside holy war, championed by Reagan while freedom fighters.

Reagan flat welcomed some mujahedeen leaders to the White House. Among his guests was Jalaluddin Haqqani, the father of the contemporaneous leader of the Haqqani network, who inside today's world is a declared terrorist.

At that time, the God versus communism message was strong. The University of Nebraska flat crafted an anti-communist syllabus to teach English to the millions of Afghan refugees living inside camps inside neighboring Pakistan. The college made the ABC simple: J was for Jihad or holy war opposed to the communists; K was for the Kalashnikov guns used inside jihad, with every one other accompanied by I was for Infidel, which described the communists themselves.

There was flat a math program. The questions went something like: If there were 10 communists with every one other accompanied by you killed five, how numerous would you have left?

When I covered the mujahedeen, I spent a a large amount of hour dated with every one other accompanied by attempt on actuality stronger, walking longer, climbing harder with every one other accompanied by faster. At one point, I ran not here of a soiled mire hut accompanied by them with every one other accompanied by hid under a nearby bunch of trees. Just minutes later, Russian helicopter gunships flew low, strafed the trees with every one other accompanied by all nevertheless destroyed the hut.

The Russians withdrew inside 1989 lacking a win. In 1992, the mujahedeen took power.

Ordinary Afghans hoped fervently that the victory of the mujahedeen would signify the extremity of war. They too to some degree welcomed a devout ideology that was additional inside dash accompanied by their mostly conservative country than communism.

But it wasn't lengthy earlier to the mujahedeen turned their guns on every one other.

The fighting was brutal, accompanied by the mujahedeen pounding the capital, Kabul, from the hills. Thrice the AP lost its apparatus to thieving warlords, only to exist returned following negotiations accompanied by the top warlord. One day I counted while numerous while 200 incoming with every one other accompanied by outgoing rockets inside of minutes.

The bloodletting of the mujahedeen-cum management ministers-cum warlords killed upward of 50,000 people. I saw a 5-year-old girl killed by a rocket while she stepped not here of her house. Children by the scores lost limbs to booby traps placed by mujahedeen while they departed neighborhoods.

I stayed on the front dash accompanied by a woman with every one other accompanied by her set of two small children inside the Macroyan homes complicated throughout the heaviest rocketing. Her husband, a former communist management employee, had fled, with every one other accompanied by she lived by making with every one other accompanied by selling bread every one day accompanied by her children.

She opened her place of residence to me flat though she had so little. All darkness we stayed inside the one space lacking windows. She asked me if I would lay clasp of her son to Pakistan the following day, nevertheless inside the extremity could not convey to see him go.

Only months following my visit, they were killed by warlords who wanted their apartment.

___

Despite the chaos of the time, Afghans still had hope.

In the waning days of the warring mujahedeen's rule, I attended a marriage inside Kabul where both the marriage communal gathering with every one other accompanied by guests were coiffed with every one other accompanied by downright glamorous. When asked how she managed to look so good accompanied by so little amid the relentless rocketing, one young woman replied brightly, "We're not deceased yet!"

The marriage was delayed twice since of rockets.

The Taliban had by at that hour dated emerged. They were former mujahedeen with every one other accompanied by regularly Islamic clerics who had returned to their villages with every one other accompanied by their devout schools following 1992. They came with every one other inside response to the relentless killing with every one other accompanied by thieving of their former comrades-in-arms.

By mid-1996, the Taliban were on Kabul's doorstep, accompanied by their word of honour of burqas for women with every one other accompanied by beards for men. Yet Afghans welcomed them. They hoped the Taliban would at least convey peace.

When asked concerning the repressive restrictions of the Taliban, one woman who had worked for an international non-profit-making organization said: "If I know there is tranquillity with every one other accompanied by my child will exist alive, I will exist dressed inside the burqa."

Peace did indeed go nearer to Afghanistan, at least of sorts. Afghans could depart from their doors unlocked lacking terror of actuality robbed. The country was disarmed, with every one other accompanied by journey anywhere inside Afghanistan at some hour dated of the day or darkness was safe.

But Afghans in a short time began to see their tranquillity while a prison. The Taliban's regulation was repressive. Public punishments such while chopping off hands with every one other accompanied by rules that denied girls educational organization with every one other accompanied by women labour brought worldwide sanctions with every one other accompanied by isolation. Afghans got poorer.

The Taliban leader at the hour dated was the reclusive Mullah Mohammad Omar, rumored to have removed his own eye following actuality wounded inside a battle opposed to invading Soviet soldiers. As international sanctions crippled Afghanistan, Omar got closer to al-Qaida, until eventually the terrorist category became the Taliban's only spring of income.

By 2001, al-Qaida's effect was complete. Despite a pledge from Omar to safeguard them, Afghanistan's of long ago statues of Buddha were destroyed, inside an order reportedly from Osama bin Laden himself.

Then came the seismic shock of 9/11.

Many Afghans mourned the American deaths so a lengthy way away. Few flat knew who bin Laden was. But the country was now squarely a mark inside the eyes of the United States. Amir Shah, AP's longtime correspondent, summed up what most Afghans were intelligent at the time: "America will place Afghanistan on fire."

And it did.

After 9/11, the Taliban threw all foreigners not here of Afghanistan, including me. The U.S.-led coalition assault began on Oct. 7, 2001.

By Oct. 23, I was spine inside Kabul, the only Western journalist to see the last weeks of Taliban rule. The strong B-52 bombers of the U.S. pounded the hills with every one other accompanied by flat landed inside the city.

On Nov. 12 that year, a 2,000-pound bomb landed on a house near the AP office. It threw me across the space with every one other accompanied by blew not here window with every one other accompanied by door frames. Glass shattered with every one other accompanied by sprayed everywhere.

By sunrise the following day, the Taliban were gone from Kabul.

___

Afghanistan's following place of rulers marched into the city, brought by the strong military strength of the U.S.-led coalition.

The mujahedeen were back.

The U.S. with every one other accompanied by U.N. returned them to ability flat though some among them had brought bin Laden from Sudan to Afghanistan inside 1996, promising him a protected from danger haven. The hope of Afghans went into and not here of the roof, since they believed the strong U.S. would assist them retain the mujahedeen inside check.

With additional than 40 countries associated accompanied by inside their homeland, they believed tranquillity with every one other accompanied by prosperity this hour dated was most certainly theirs. Foreigners were greeting everywhere.

Some Afghans worried concerning the returning mujahedeen, remembering the corruption with every one other accompanied by fighting when they last were inside power. But America's representative at the time, Zalmay Khalilzad, told me that the mujahedeen had been warned opposed to returning to their elderly ways.

Yet worrying signs began to emerge. The revenge killings began, with every one other accompanied by the U.S.-led coalition occasionally participated lacking knowing the details. The mujahedeen would falsely identify enemies – flat those who had worked accompanied by the U.S. earlier to – while belonging to al-Qaida or to the Taliban.

One such mistake happened early inside December 2001 when a convoy was on its way to meet the new President Hamid Karzai. The U.S.-led coalition bombed it since they were told the convoy bore fighters from the Taliban with every one other accompanied by al-Qaida. They turned not here to exist tribal elders.

Secret prisons emerged. Hundreds of Afghan men disappeared. Families became desperate.

Resentment soared mainly among the ethnic Pashtuns, who had been the backbone of the Taliban. One former Taliban subscriber proudly displayed his new Afghan identity cardboard with every one other accompanied by wanted to begin a aqua scheme inside his village. But corrupt management officials extorted him for his money, with every one other accompanied by he returned to the Taliban.

A deputy police leader inside southern Zabul province told me of 2,000 young Pashtun men, some former Taliban, who wanted to fasten the new government's Afghan National Army. But they were mocked for their ethnicity, with every one other accompanied by eventually all nevertheless quartet went to the mountains with every one other accompanied by joined the Taliban.

In the meantime, corruption seemed to stretch not here epic proportions, accompanied by suitcases of money, regularly from the CIA, handed off to Washington's Afghan allies. Yet schools were built, roads were reconstructed with every one other accompanied by a new number of years of Afghans, at least inside the cities, grew up accompanied by freedoms their parents had not known with every one other accompanied by inside numerous cases looked on accompanied by suspicion.

Then came the shooting inside 2014 that would alter my life.

It began while most days do inside Afghanistan: Up earlier to 6 a.m. This day we were waiting for a convoy of Afghan police with every one other accompanied by military to depart from the eastern city of Khost for a faraway neighbourhood to distribute the last of the ballot boxes for Afghanistan's 2014 presidential elections.

After 30 minutes navigating past blown-out bridges with every one other accompanied by craters that pockmarked the road, we arrived at a large police compound. For additional than an hour, Anja with every one other accompanied by I talked accompanied by with every one other accompanied by photographed concerning a dozen police officials.

We finished our labour fair while a illumination drizzle began. We got into the automobile with every one other accompanied by waited to depart from for a nearby village. That's when the shooting happened.

It was set of two years earlier to I was intelligent to return to labour with every one other accompanied by to Afghanistan.

___

By that point, the disappointment with every one other accompanied by disenchantment accompanied by America's longest war had by that hour dated place in. Despite the U.S. spending over $148 billion on evolution all alone over 20 years, the percentage of Afghans hardly surviving at the penury flat was increasing yearly.

In 2019, Pakistan began accepting visa applications at its consulate inside eastern Afghanistan. People were so despairing to depart from that nine died inside a stampede.

In 2020, the U.S. with every one other accompanied by the Taliban signed a deal for troops to withdraw within 18 months. The U.S. with every one other accompanied by NATO began to evacuate their staff, closing down embassies with every one other accompanied by offering those who worked for them asylum.

The pile closure of embassies was baffling to me since the Taliban had made no indeed threats, with every one other accompanied by it sparked panic inside Kabul. It was the sudden with every one other accompanied by secret departure of President Ashraf Ghani that eventually brought the Taliban spine into the city on Aug. 15, 2021.

Their swift entry came while a surprise, down accompanied by the thorough collapse of the neglected Afghan army, beset by deep corruption. The Taliban's quick march in the direction of Kabul fed a hurry in the direction of the airport.

For numerous inside the Afghan capital, the only hope left-hand lay inside getting out.

Fida Mohammad, a 24-year-old dentist, was despairing to depart from for the U.S. so he could be paid sufficient money to repay his father's bill of $13,000 for his elaborate marriage. He clung to the wheels of the departing US C-17 aircraft on Aug. 16 with every one other accompanied by died.

Zaki Anwari, a 17-year-old footballer, ran to obtain on the plane. He dreamed only of football, with every one other accompanied by believed his fantasy could not go nearer accurate inside Afghanistan. He was sprint over by the C-17.

Now the future inside Afghanistan is flat additional uncertain. Scores of people dash up external outside the banks to try to obtain their money out. Hospitals are short of medicine. The Taliban hardliners seem to have the upper hand, at least inside the short term.

Afghans are left-hand to face the fact that the entire world came to their country inside 2001 with every one other accompanied by spent billions, with every one other accompanied by still couldn't convey them prosperity or flat the beginnings of prosperity. That all alone has greatly eroded hope for the future.

I depart from Afghanistan accompanied by mixed feelings, sad to see how its hope has been destroyed nevertheless still greatly moved by its 38 million people. The Afghans I met genuinely loved their country, flat if it is now led by elderly men driven by tribal traditions insulting to a world that I am not sure at some time really understood Afghanistan.

Most certainly, though, I will exist back.

Hope with every one other accompanied by despair: Kathy Gannon on 35 years inside Afghanistan

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