There has been a war in Afghanistan for more than 40 years. Even after the Taliban conquered Kabul again, there is no end in sight. The Afghans want peace at last. But they usually have nothing left but to flee.
In 1979 Soviet troops march in to support the Afghan communists in the civil war against the Islamist mujahideen. In the year-long conflict, in which neither side wins the upper hand despite bloody battles, the first mass exodus begins. In ten years of occupation, well over 6 million people have fled – mainly to the neighboring states of Iran and Pakistan.
Soviet Union withdraws
In 1989 the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan. The militia civil war follows – the main issue is power in the capital, Kabul. Reconstruction begins in the countryside, with more than three million returning to their homeland hoping for peace.
The Taliban formed in 1994, two years later they took Afghanistan almost completely and established a regime of terror based on the Islamic Sharia legal system. Hundreds of thousands are again displaced in the country.
The Taliban will rule until 2001. In response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, the United States proclaimed a “war on terror” and set itself the goal of overthrowing the Taliban. Hundreds of thousands are fleeing again – from one province to another or abroad. In the years that followed, a US-backed government ruled Kabul. With the help of the UN, millions of displaced people are returning – often only to safe catchment areas far away from their homeland.
Stability did not last long: in 2006 the Taliban regrouped as a nationwide resistance movement and carried out suicide bombings – including on the civilian population.
The security situation in large parts of Afghanistan deteriorated. Successful returns are decreasing, while internal displacement is increasing. Iran (2.5 million refugees) and Pakistan (an estimated three million) no longer want to let Afghans into the country unchecked. From 2015, Europe will also tighten its entry regulations. Escape there – expensive and life-threatening anyway – will be more difficult or even impossible for many displaced people from Afghanistan: in 2019, for the first time, more people will flee within Afghanistan than abroad.
After the surprisingly quick withdrawal of Western troops and the unchecked advance of the Taliban in recent days, the situation in Afghanistan is now more hopeless than in all previous years.