WITNESS: Return to Kabul, in a cordon of fear

Wed Sep 24, 2008 8:20pm EDT
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By Sanjeev Miglani

Sanjeev Miglani is an editor with Reuters political and general news desk in Singapore and has about 15 years of reporting experience, mainly in the conflict zones of South Asia.

KABUL (Reuters) - The rows of bombed-out and upturned Soviet era-planes that littered the ground at Kabul airport when I left five years ago are gone.

But returning to the Afghan capital, which I last saw just before the spring of 2003 when it was starting to find its feet after the Taliban were driven out by U.S.-led forces, is both surprising and disconcerting.

"It looks better but it feels worse," says a Western diplomat, summing up his four years in Kabul.

We are sitting in a darkened Indian restaurant with its shutters fully lowered. Armed guards opened the door just a fraction to allow a small group of us in.

Before, when I came from New Delhi for a month as one of a stream of people on temporary assignment, I had spent an Indian evening in a run-down Sikh temple up a squalid back alley: a kind driver had deposited me there thinking I was homesick.

A tall Sikh in trousers and shirt uncharacteristically did not invite me in, but kept saying "we don't really want anything, we just want to be left alone and allowed to practice our faith," his eyes darting up and down the street.

To me the very idea that Sikhs could be living here still after the years of the Taliban had been remarkable.   Continued...