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NATO summit prompts little buzz on streets of Kabul

A street vendor carries bread in the Afghan capital Kabul on Saturday.
A street vendor carries bread in the Afghan capital Kabul on Saturday.Rahmat Gul / AP

KABUL, Afghanistan -- There isn’t much of a buzz about NATO’s summit on the streets of the Afghan capital Kabul, at least not outside government agency walls.  The majority of citizens continue to focus on earning a few dollars a day to survive in a country tormented by war since 1979.

The NATO gathering in Chicago is expected to draw up an exit strategy and finalize a financial commitment to Afghan Security Forces (ANSF), as the foreign combat mission comes to an end in a couple of years.  The Afghan government is asking the international community to commit $4.1 billion a year to keep their security operations running. 

Friday after prayers at a mosque in the center of the city, most of the men did not even know what the summit in Chicago was about or even Afghanistan’s role in it.

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Others used it as an opportunity to raise their frustrations about U.S. and international involvement in Afghanistan.

“They haven’t achieved anything in the last 10 years!” Mullah Khaista Gul said.  “They should learn lessons from the past.  We have seen conferences in the past, in London, Germany and Afghanistan, but none of them benefited ordinary Afghans.”

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Some, although unaware of the purpose of this summit, know that it involves more financial aid and hope it can in some way benefit Afghanistan.

“The international community should not leave Afghanistan alone,” Khalil Khan, a 29-year-old pharmacist, said.  “The Chicago conference is a hopeful gathering and the international community and Afghans should really think about a good future for all of us.  They should hand their money and responsibility to good people who can be trusted, not warlords.”


27-year-old Raz Mohammad, who works with a trucking company, was the only one we spoke to who understood what the Chicago meetings on Afghanistan would be about -- the funding of Afghan security forces.

Mohammad said he thinks that the international community should continue to support the security forces if they want to make sure Afghanistan doesn't fall into Taliban hands again.  He said that too many mistakes have been made in the past and that they need to be resolved quickly and correctly.

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“In Nuristan province last year, the police didn’t receive their salaries for four or five months.  Many of them got fed up and angry then decided to join the Taliban,” Mohammad said.

But he also believes that there are more problems than just financial and he said more needs to be done to stop the high attrition rates within the security forces. 

“I have also seen many people join the army or police for six months, make some money and go back to use that money to help grow their crops,” he said.  “It’s important that this be discussed in Chicago and see how they can fix it.”

As world leaders gather at the NATO summit in Chicago, most Afghans don’t know how it will affect their future.  But there are some who still hold on to the hope that those leaders will make the right decisions to benefit Afghanistan.