Foreign Policy

Terrorist assault in Kabul destroys lives – and illusions

KABUL – Abdul Akbari was in his bed at Ali Abad Hospital in Kabul and suffered a gunshot wound in his left leg. He clearly remembered what happened during the terrorist attack on his university campus in Kabul on Monday.

“The terrorists came as suicide bombers and murderers and murdered many. One of them, wearing some sort of guard uniform and no face covering, opened our classroom door and looked us straight in the eyes. He shouted ‘Allahu akbar’ before he started shooting, ”Akbari said. “A lot of my friends are dead. I saw them lying on the floor when I tried to escape. “

The 22-year-old student survived, but of the 13 students who were brought to Ali Abad, he is one of the happier ones. Across the hall, in a spartan intensive care unit, another student lay unconscious with four bullets in his stomach and a pool of blood growing under his bed. The nurses weren’t optimistic.

At least 22 people were killed and dozens more injured in a terrorist attack on Monday at Kabul University, the largest in Afghanistan, with a student body of around 22,000. The Islamic State in Afghanistan demanded recognition for the attack. It was just the latest sign that the fragile peace deal between the United States and the Taliban this year is far from the final word on a conflict that has gutted Afghanistan for decades.

The six-hour siege began late in the morning and ended with Afghan forces and US commandos killing three attackers. Loud explosions and sustained gunfire raged throughout the afternoon on the university campus, where many students took shelter while the majority had fled.

The attack is another attack by the Islamic state on education in just over a week, shortly after an attack on a private education center in a primarily Shiite neighborhood in Kabul on October 24 that killed at least 30 people, most of them teenage students.

The Taliban were quick to deny Monday’s attack, but were charged by a number of Afghan government officials. Since the signing of the peace accord with Washington, the Taliban have launched an almost unprecedented campaign of violence against Afghan government forces and civilians. The United Nations documented 5,939 civilian casualties, including more than 2,000 dead, in the first nine months of 2020, and said last week that peace talks failed to slow that toll.

As US troops withdraw, many Afghans fear the violence will simply escalate. An Afghan national policeman, whose black boots were covered in dry blood and whose face was carcassed, admitted he had no hope. He asked to withhold his name.

Family members of students injured in the Kabul University attack wait outside the intensive care unit at Ali Abed Hospital, a clinic across from the university, on November 2. Stefanie Glinski for foreign policy

“We carried dozens of bodies from the university campus. The classrooms were covered in blood. It was a slaughter, ”he said, sure the official death toll was still rising. “It seems that we are moving further away from peace every day. There is no safe place in this country. “

Afghanistan has seen grueling and stressful conflicts for over four decades. The US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad warned that the window for a political solution will not remain open forever. “Afghans are dying at high speed, and regional spoilers are using Afghans as cannon fodder for their illegitimate targets,” he said.

Few expect the situation to change.

Cars drove up late into the night on Monday at Ali Abad Hospital, directly across from the university campus. Relatives of the wounded or killed piled up. Their faces were stern with worry, their eyes desperately searching lists of the names of those admitted to the clinic, hoping the morgue wouldn’t be their next stop.

Nahida Muhradi, a 22-year-old law student, is resting at Ali Abed Hospital in Kabul on November 2, where she is recovering from her injuries. Stefanie Glinski for foreign policy

Nahida Muhradi’s family search ended less terribly with Ali Abad than it could have been. The 22-year-old law student was recovering from a gunshot wound to her left leg and shared her intensive care room with five other women, most of whom were injured in the attack. Muhradi’s sister received permission from the doctors to visit; The two young women sat by their bed, screamed and cried, held hands and touched each other.

Muhradi said she wasn’t sure she would seek a way out of her war-torn nation. Akbari, who saw many classmates shot dead, said it was difficult to see his future in Afghanistan. “Both our government and the international community – including the US – have failed. It’s not even safe to go to university anymore, ”he said.

“The terrorists come to kill and injure us. We had hopes, but we cannot hope. All we – our young generation – want is to make Afghanistan great again. “

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