Young Afghans have a vital role to play as the international community begins reducing its military and civilian presence in Afghanistan and students at Kabul University are likely to be at the forefront of their generation and can be key players in a successful and durable transition.
There is support for international military operations and for the transition from the students interviewed at Kabul University, but although the interviewees in this important group of young Afghans are aligned with the international community’s political and security goals, many of them are ambivalent or hostile towards its actions. The international mission has won their minds but not their hearts.
Low levels of ethnic tensions, support for democracy and women’s rights among those questioned are positive signs that this generation can play a positive role in the future of Afghanistan.
Almost sixty percent of Kabul university students interviewed believe that an event like those recently seen in Egypt and Tunisia – the ‘Arab Spring’ – could happen in Afghanistan. The ‘youth bulge’ in Afghanistan, with 27% of the total population aged between 15 and 29, means an ‘Afghan Spring’ could have significant impact on the country.
The death of Osama Bin Laden adds a new dynamic at the overarching level of the conflict. Some Kabul University students interviewed believe that Osama Bin Laden’s death is bad news and many believe that it does not mean the end of Al Qaeda. Respondents opinions were mixed on the effect his death will have on the Taliban; a majority think it will hurt them, but significant numbers think it will have no effect.
Widespread lack of knowledge of the 9/11 attacks even among this educated cohort shows that the international community still has much work to do in explaining its presence in Afghanistan. Nonetheless, the international community is considered by those interviewed the ‘least worst option’: the Taliban and their ideology are rejected by most Kabul University students interviewed.