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World

U.S. Decision To Delay Troop Withdrawal Puts Some Afghans At Ease

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

We're going to get reaction to this next from Afghanistan. It's been dominating the TV news there, and there's been a lot of reaction online as well. NPR's Philip Reeves has been talking to people in the capital, Kabul, and sent this report.

PHILIP REEVES, BYLINE: Atiqullah Amarkhel finds American and NATO forces in Afghanistan annoying. Their choppers regularly fly low over his home. The Americans should live in my apartment block, see how they like it, he says, as yet another chopper passes overhead. Yet Amarkhel is glad that U.S. forces are here and glad they're staying.

ATIQULLAH AMARKHEL: (Foreign language spoken).

REEVES: "The presence of American and NATO forces has a positive psychological impact on Afghanistan's army," says Amarkhel. "That army has been suffering very high casualties and is struggling in the war with the Taliban." Amarkhel is a retired general from the Afghan military and a defense analyst. He thinks 9,800 U.S. troops, scaled down to 5,500 in 2017, is nothing like enough. But that's up to the Americans, he says.

AMARKHEL: (Foreign language spoken).

REEVES: "What really counts is that this shows that Afghanistan has the support of the international community," he explains. Amarkhel thinks that's an especially important signal to send to neighboring Pakistan. Pakistan is widely accused by Afghans of fanning the violence here by covertly supporting militant groups.

The Taliban has vowed to continue fighting until the last foreign soldier leaves the country. Their presence in rural areas has been growing, fueled by the strong hostility of some Afghans towards the U.S. That view was likely reinforced by the killing of 22 people in recent U.S. air strikes against a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders. Yet, the militant's resurgence and their brief takeover of the city of Kunduz has caused considerable alarm here in Kabul.

Qais Ameri runs a market store selling shoes and backpacks. He's relieved by President Obama's decision.

QAIS AMERI: Yes, yes. I'm happy because right now our country need for American security in our country right now.

REEVES: Arizo Qayomi, a school teacher, has come to this market to buy clothes for a wedding. She says there are rumors of an imminent Taliban attack in Kabul. She's worried the wedding won't go ahead. Qayomi feels that extending the presence of American soldiers is good for Afghan women who suffered severe discrimination under the Taliban.

ARIZO QAYOMI: (Through interpreter) When the Americans announced they were leaving this country, we were really disappointed.

REEVES: Qayomi says she's much happier now but not with the number of U.S. soldiers.

QAYOMI: (Through interpreter) No, no. It's not enough. They should send more troops. The situation here is getting worse.

REEVES: "Every day when we leave home, we just don't feel safe," she says. Philip Reeves, NPR News, Kabul. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.