Monday, December 17, 2012

Afghans turn to AK-47, fearing Taliban return or civil war

Gun-control may be a hot item here in the United States, but, in Afghanistan, the underground gun trade is flourishing.

President Obama's plan to end the U.S. combat mission in Afghanistan by the end of 2014 has left the Afghan people with little choice but to arm themselves in preparation for the inevitable: The return of the Taliban.
Afghan father-of-four Mohammad Nasir has a secret he's been keeping from his family.

The aid worker pulls a television bench out from the living-room wall of his Kabul home. Behind it is a carved out shelf, hiding what he hopes will keep loved ones safe when Western troops withdraw by the end of 2014 -- an AK-47 assault rifle.

Arms purchases are soaring in Afghanistan, along with the price of weapons, a sign that many Afghans fear a return of the Taliban, civil war or rising lawlessness.

An assault rifle cost $400 a year ago. Today, some arms dealers are selling them for triple the price.

And it's not just ordinary Afghans who are buying. Warlords who control militias, and former anti-Soviet mujahideen fighters are also boosting the trade.

"Whenever you turn on the TV or radio, the discussion is 2014. I'm not feeling safe now, it's become like doomsday for Afghans," said Nasir... "People are saying security will collapse, or soldiers will join warlords or the Taliban, so we need something to protect our families when there's a crisis."...

For many Afghans, the threat of a descent into chaos is real so a growing number are investing in weapons, despite exorbitant costs. The average Afghan family earns only about $200 a month...

Buyers and sellers of illegal arms in five provinces... each cited the foreign troop withdrawal as the main driver of the underground trade... Afghans fear they will be abandoned by the United States once again. Most don't want the Taliban to return, so they are determined to protect themselves.

Russian or Pakistani-made AK-47 assault rifles are the biggest sellers, followed by light machine guns. In some areas, the militias go for rocket-propelled grenades...

"I'm sure if something goes wrong in 2014, I'll face lots of problems," said Nasir. "If the Taliban return to power they'll kill me because I work with the government. If warlords come to power it's bad news for everyone."
Related Post: Taliban attacks have increased sharply since Obama took office in 2009

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