MELISSA BLOCK, Host:
As we just heard, the U.S. military's plans for Kandahar are still evolving. But unlike the recent bloody battle for Marjah, the Kandahar operation aims to win over the local population more than the territory itself.
BLOCK: Afghan- American activist Rangina Hamidi. She grew up in the States and went back to Kandahar in 2003. She says many inside Kandahar are considering leaving because they have no idea what the summer will bring.
RANGINA HAMIDI: The fear of unknown of what is going to happen in the next month or two is really a 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.
BLOCK: What's your understanding of what is likely to happen, what the NATO mission will be?
HAMIDI: Well, I mean, at this point, to be honest, even I'm confused because there's really no clear information available to the public masses about what is planned to be happening. Initially, you know, rumors were that there was actually going to be an operation mission all throughout the districts of Kandahar, but as well as in the city.
Then we heard, no, only operations in the districts and not in the city. And now, right before I left a couple days ago, there was talk that there might not be any operation. That they, you know, the NATO forces are planning a different strategy of working with civilians, with working with the government and correcting governmental institutions so as to win the hearts and minds of ordinary people. And by extension they will win, you know, this so-called war. But what is actually going to happen is still very unclear to not only to me, but to the majority of citizens in Kandahar.
BLOCK: On a daily basis, how would you say you see or experience the presence of the Taliban or other insurgent groups in Kandahar?
HAMIDI: I mean, the issue is, the Taliban or Talib, is not something or a group that can easily, visibly be stamped or noticed and, you know, you can pinpoint and say this is a Talib and this is a person working for the Taliban. Ordinary citizens, ordinary people, some of them maybe even working with the NATO forces, are also working for the Taliban. It's this confusion that's making it so difficult because you never know who's who.
Personally, you know, I used to be, seven years ago when I first went to Afghanistan without a burqa, as a young woman, I would go out and about and did everything and anything that I wanted to do. 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. And out of fear I have honestly chosen this time to leave.
I'm not saying that it's a permanent leave, but if we don't see a positive sign anytime soon, I might be having to make some difficult decisions about being there and working there.
BLOCK: Would it be your hope, Ms. Hamidi, that the NATO operation this summer could make things better, could reduce the impact of the insurgents in Kandahar and make it a place that you feel comfortable living again?
HAMIDI: I wish I could believe it that it could be successful. My heart and mind tells me, an operation will only create more animosity towards America and the international community. Innocent people are bound to be killed in it. And that is the propaganda that the Taliban have used from the beginning.
BLOCK: The U.S. military, though, has tried to alter the way it is conducting these operations. It was my understanding with trying to minimize any civilian casualties, conduct these operations in a different way. Does that give you any solace at all?
HAMIDI: When you ask ordinary Afghans, the propaganda of the opposition, meaning the Taliban, the insurgent group, is such that even when they carry out activities, it is constantly and immediately blamed on the international community.
And, you know, when you deal with a society that is completely separated from the world in the sense of, you know, no access to free media, no access to television or news that are really even honest, they believe rumors. They believe what people tell them.
So the Taliban propaganda will unfortunately I think overpower the military mission, even if they try to be careful with it. I hope and I pray that there will be no casualties, you know, or collateral damage for ordinary citizens. And I too am happy for my country to develop and be free of people who are trying to destruct the nation and its people.
But at the same time, it's very hard for me to believe that it will 100 percent collateral damage free. They can try, certainly, but I don't think it'll be 100 percent successful.
BLOCK: Rangina Hamidi, it's good to talk to you again. Thank you very much.
HAMIDI: Thank you very much for your time.
BLOCK: Afghan-American activist Rangina Hamidi lives in Kandahar. She runs a business that markets the embroidery of local Afghan women. It's called Kandahar treasure.
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