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As Violence Increases, Businesswoman Rangina Hamidi Leaves Kandahar For U.S.

Earlier today, Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), and Under Secretary of Defense Michele Flournoy testified at a hearing on the situation in Afghanistan, amid growing concern about progress there.

Last week, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, said a planned operation in Kandahar will take longer than he and other military leaders initially anticipated.

To get a sense of what the situation is like on the ground in southern Afghanistan, NPR's Melissa Block talked with Rangina Hamidi, the president of Kandahar Treasure, a company that produces Afghan handcrafts.

Fearing increased violence, and at the encouragement of friends and family members, Hamidi recently decided to return to the U.S., where she grew up.

So far, she only plans to stay here temporarily.  But, Hamidi said, that could change.

"If we don't see a positive sign any time soon, I might be having to make some difficult decisions about being there and working there," she said.

I just don't think, at this point, that it's worth risking my life for a cause that I don't believe in.  I used to, seven years ago.  I wanted to give my life for my country seven years ago, but now, after being there and seeing so much negativity, and seeing so much destruction, and just the mindset of the government, the international community, the ordinary people, it's almost chaos.  It's like being in a chaotic situation.  I don't think it's worth my life right now.

According to Hamidi, everyday life in Kandahar Province -- for women especially -- has changed dramatically since she arrived there.

"Seven years ago, when I first went to Afghanistan, without a burqa, as a young woman, I'd go out and about, and did everything that I wanted to," she said. "Seven years later, I've pretty much locked myself in house, because I'm so afraid to leave.  When I do, I do wear the burqa to protect myself."

Hamidi said the recent military offensive in Marjah, devised to rid the province of insurgents, made her doubt the potential efficacy of a similar operation in Kandahar.

"Why push for an agenda that has recently failed itself?" she asked.  "Why are we wasting tax dollars on something that is bound to fail?"

In Kandahar, there is widespread confusion about what the NATO-led forces have planned there, Hamidi said.

"There's really no clear information available to the public masses about what is planned," she said.  "The words keep changing about what is actually going to happen in Kandahar."

The fear of the unknown, of what is going to happen in the next month or two, is really the driving force behind many people either wanting to get out, or keeping a very low profile because they just want to be safe and sound.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

David Gura
Based in New York, David Gura is a correspondent on NPR's business desk. His stories are broadcast on NPR's newsmagazines, All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and he regularly guest hosts 1A, a co-production of NPR and WAMU.