KABUL – Many average Afghan citizens feel that it is too soon for any significant drawdown of U.S. troops, fearing economic gains and political stability will vanish as soon as the Americans start to leave.
Following President Obama's speech about the withdrawal of 30,000 U.S. troops stationed here over the next two years, Fox News took to the streets of Kabul to ask the public their thoughts.
No one we spoke to wanted to give their names for fear of reprisal, but many had the same response: Afghan citizens appear to have no confidence in either the Afghan National Army or the police that they can take responsibility for the country’s security any time soon.
Additionally, there are many Afghans who have prospered in the past 10 years as peace gains have led to economic success.
Those who have done well economically fear that investment into the country will evaporate once the protection from the U.S. military is no longer there – and that those who managed to escape their medieval existences will be ruined.
Yet there are many who want the U.S. withdrawal to be as swift as possible, including President Hamid Karzai, who welcomed Obama's decision to withdraw 10,000 this year and 23,000 more next year. He recently slammed U.S. troops as “occupiers.”
He and other members of his government believe they can clinch political mileage from appearing to kick out NATO from Afghanistan for too many civilian casualties.
Unsurprisingly, the Taliban also wants to see them gone, although publicly they dismissed Obama's announcement as "only as a symbolic step," according to a statement.
But those who support the withdrawal on both the Afghan side and internationally think the Taliban will easily come back in full force and topple Karzai’s administration once NATO leaves.
Those skeptics include some members inside the government who privately express deep concern about its vulnerability, as it is not strong enough to withstand a resurgent Taliban.
People we spoke to in Kabul Thursday said the army, currently under fast-track training by mostly U.S. troops, will only be able to defend the capital, allowing the Taliban to potentially control much of the rest of the country once NATO's International Security Assistance Force has left.
Citizens, knowing the festering rivalries running between the many tribes here, also say a major civil war could erupt that would engulf the country. They are convinced it would be worse than any prior conflict in Afghanistan because this time the warlords are better funded, better armed and better manned than before.
That could be catastrophic for Afghanistan and the region. And of course, the finger of blame would be pointed yet again at America.