After securing a position at the human rights commission in Afghanistan at the age of 24, Fatima Khalil had come a long way from becoming a refugee child who nearly did not do it at birth, with the midwife walking out before even cutting the umbilical cord. She spoke six languages, had a sound background in social education, and graduated with two Majors from the American University of Central Asia. But what friends most recognize is a young, deeply confident but sensitive woman who was utterly in love with life. She wore vivid colors — an orange dress for her birthday — and outstripped everyone on the dance floor, but she feared the night.
Ms. Khalil and a driver, 41-year-old Ahmad Jawid Folad, were killed in another of the all-too-ubiquitous blasts hitting civilians in Kabul on Saturday, there was a feeling of frustration across Afghanistan. At a period of immense instability for the world, when an ongoing war still takes more than 50 lives on many days, it embodied the optimistic hope of a whole generation who is in the cycle of being cut down in blood.
A generation of young Afghans has grown up in the turbulent 18 years after the Taliban dictatorship was driven out of control with rights and prospects that are now challenged by the possibility of rebels returning to office. The U.S. is now withdrawing forces under a agreement with the Taliban signed this year.
But the bloodletting escalated well before power-sharing talks between the government and the Taliban started. Many of those attacked are members of the new life which has taken hold since 2001: journalists and liberal religious intellectuals, cultural leaders including activists — including women in public positions.
Ms. Khalil was raised in Pakistan to a family of migrants who had escaped from Afghanistan, the sixth child of two former teachers, an earlier chapter in the 40-year period in bloodshed. Her father started a grocery store in Quetta, Pakistan, receiving scarcely enough to get by; her sister Lima said the midwife left halfway through the birth of Fatima, angry the family did not afford her complete amount.
While the family was constantly displaced, Fatima excelled in education. She started her education at a Pakistani refugee school provided by a Saudi charity. When the family moved back to Afghanistan, she graduated from a prestigious Turkish international school in Kabul, where she had attended on a scholarship. By the time she graduated with a double degree in anthropology and human rights studies from the American University of Central Asia in Kyrgyzstan she was fluent in Arabic, Urdu, English, Russian and the Afghan languages Pashto and Farsi (also known as Dari).
Her disgust and frustration at the place of women in society and politics, and the fixation of people with women's looks and dress, are clearly apparent in her posts on social media. She was part of a group of young Afghan women at the international university who had built faith and bravado, losing some of the victimhood image.
Afghan and US officials believe the conflict has reached a difficult era of instability, with an emboldened rebellion aided by regional forces exerting pressure on a weak government by periodically cranking up violent assaults without reporting them.
U.S. intelligence recently reported, in an indication of the war zone 's difficulty, that the Taliban were collecting reward money from Russian intelligence last year for attacking American and alliance powers even though they sought peace with the US.
The agreement, concluded in February, involved 5,000 Taliban hostages being traded for 1,000 Afghan troops within 10 days of signing. That exchange, which the Afghan government met with resistance, is only now near completion with the release of nearly 4,000 Taliban inmates.
The Taliban promised not to strike American objectives but rejected a cease-fire with the powers of the Afghan government, leaving everything to direct talks between the Afghan sides. American officials, however, said the insurgents had an informal understanding that they would reduce their attacks by 80 per cent. Afghans have been increasingly frustrated that they have not seen a reduction in violence, and the U.S., focused on the urgency of President Trump to get out of the war, has done little to hold the Taliban to that.
The Afghan National Security Council claimed June had the war's worst week, with 291 Afghan soldiers murdered in one week of Taliban assaults. Javid Faisal, a spokesperson for the National Security Council, said the Taliban attacks had increased almost 40 percent over the past three months relative to the same time last year.
"We have been extremely troubled since the US-Taliban deal was concluded," said Haidar Afzaly, the president of the Defense Committee of the Afghan Parliament. "The only group that has benefited from that is the Taliban, who see the release of their prisoners."
He said the Taliban, who were set back in 2019 by frequent airstrikes, "are now emboldened" and "have broadened their attacks."
Authorities believe the Taliban are still leveraging the grey areas of the battlefield complicated by the remains of a collapsing Islamic State and the growing involvement of crime networks as the spread of coronavirus further damages the fragile economy of the world.
The Taliban have gradually subcontracted assassinations and planned murders to crime networks in the towns, a top Afghan security official said, placing strain on the intelligence community and law enforcement in the region. The Taliban are conducting violent urban bombings in the mountains, but they have refrained from publicizing the assaults in order to avert a clear confrontation with the United States so as not to risk the departure of American forces.
In an indication of the nature of the war, five lawyers with the Afghan attorney general's office were among the new casualties targeted for assassinations, who were shot dead on their way to the Bagram prison to help free Taliban inmates.
The killings contributed to a lengthy string of massacres, including two of Kabul's most famous religious scholars killed by bombings inside their mosques. The prominent Afghan writer and poet Assadullah Walwaliji 's family experienced another fire, killing his wife Anisa and teenage daughter Alteen.