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As Fighting Escalates In Kandahar, Nostalgia For Taliban Rule, Islamic Law

Young men gather at a Kandahar coffee shop. As US and Afghan soldiers battle Taliban outside the city, there is nostalgia in the shop for the time when Taliban used to rule the city's government. "Everyone was punished for his crime," one young man said. Jim Wildman/NPR hide caption

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Jim Wildman/NPR

Mehmoud Hassan is eating a candy bar inside a Kandahar coffee shop.

He tells us that he's 20 years old, that he's a student studying to be a businessman, and — as U.S. and Afghan soldiers intensify their fight against the Taliban just outside the city — he explains how he's nostalgic for the time the Taliban and Islamic law once ruled Kandahar.

"During the Taliban, residents of Kandahar were very well-disciplined and they were obeying the very path that our ancestors and prophets had chosen for us," Hassan says. "Of course they were doing some bad things, like beating the women that we are against — but the rest of it was exactly what Islamic law says."

It's an opinion shared by many in in the city.

Tooryalai Wesa, a provincial governor, says "all the government employees are not on the government side, all the teachers are not on the government side. These are the people who shelter the opposition, people who feed the opposition."

Mixed allegiances in Kandahar means even the city's bustling streets are unsafe. Suicide bombers attack military convoys. Civilians are hit in gun battles. And as one man told us, he says goodbye to his family each morning like it's the last time he'll see them.

Jim Wildman is a senior producer of Morning Edition, traveling with NPR's Renee Montagne on her reporting trip to Afghanistan.