KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Thousands of Afghans are pouring into makeshift camps in the capital where they face a harsh winter as the Taliban return to areas once cleared by foreign forces, who this week are marking the end of their combat mission.
On the grimy outskirts of Kabul, hundreds of families are huddled in flimsy tents or mud shelters at the Bagrami camp. By day the children forage for fuel and food. At night the families burn garbage to try to keep warm as the icy winds sweep down from the Hindu Kush mountains surrounding the city and temperatures plunge to below freezing.
"Violence has forced us out of our homes but here misery and poverty have made our life even more difficult," said Abdul Qayyum, 52, who fled here with his wife and eight children. "Such a life is not worth living."
The insurgents are now once again on the move, and have extended the summer fighting season as foreign forces have handed over front-line combat responsibility to Afghan security forces. This week the U.S. and NATO are formally ending their combat mission, 13 years after the invasion that toppled the Taliban in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.
The insurgents have taken advantage of the vacuum and seized territory across the country, redrawing battle lines through urban areas and putting civilians at greater risk. The Sangin fighting began in June after Afghan forces replaced withdrawing U.S. troops.
This has been the bloodiest year of the war for civilians, with the toll of dead and wounded expected to hit 10,000 for the first time since the U.N. began keeping records in 2008.
After a mild start, the worst of the winter is yet to come. Temperatures can fall to well below freezing, with searing winds off the mountains and snow that turns to filthy ice. Every year scores of people -- mainly children and the elderly -- die of cold and hunger, though no precise figures exist.
"I am so worried about my children," said Bebi, who like many Afghans goes by one name. "We have no food, no water and even no blankets to keep my children warm."
The cash-strapped U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs plans to distribute some relief — food, children's clothing, firewood and plastic sheeting for shelter. But the agency's deputy head in Afghanistan, Catherine Howard, told people in the camp during a recent visit that there was no money for blankets. Read More at Huffingtonpost