The corridors of escape, however, are swiftly narrowing. At October’s Brussels Conference on Afghanistan, the European Union agreed to support the effort to rebuild the war-torn country with $15 billion in aid over the next four years, in exchange for promises by the government to address corruption, political reform, and human rights. At the same time, the Kabul government also agreed to “Joint Way Forward,” a deal that will allow EU states to deport Afghan asylum-seekers. It also requires Afghanistan to readmit any of its citizens who have not received asylum in Europe and have not agreed to go back to their country voluntarily. Although the agreement did not stipulate exact numbers, tens of thousands of Afghan asylum-seekers could be deported in the near future. To speed the mass deportations, the Afghan government promised to expedite the relevant bureaucratic processes. Rejected asylum-seekers, for example, will receive their Afghan passports faster. In addition, the Afghan government plans to build a special terminal at the airport in Kabul for those who have been forced to return.
But the deal seems to ignore the obvious. For those seeking to leave Afghanistan, rebuilt bridges, roads, and power plants have little bearing on their calculation. Many are simply trying to avoid death. According to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), civilian casualties have reached a new peak since the organization began publishing reports on civilian casualties in 2009. Between January 1 and September 30 of 2016, at least 2,562 civilians have been killed, while an additional 5,835 have been injured.
Fifteen years after NATO’s mission in Afghanistan began, the West is trying everything it can to turn its war into a success. Several European countries, like Germany and Austria, even started their own “information campaigns” aimed at persuading Afghans not to leave their country. But such desperate attempts do not affect realities on the ground.
In recent months, the Afghan Taliban have won back significant territory from government forces. Those forces are losing as many as 5,000 people each month through casualties and desertion, according to Afghan government officials. The past several weeks have seen heavy clashes between the insurgents and the Afghan National Army in several provinces, including Kunduz in the north and Uruzgan and Helmand in the south, where Taliban fighters ambushed and killed around 100 policemen and soldiers last Thursday. On Ashura, a sacred day for Shia Muslims, an Islamic State gunman killed at least 18 people at a Shia shrine in Kabul. Several additional attacks on Afghanistan's capital have also taken place in recent weeks, killing or injuring dozens of civilians.
Since ISIS cells began appearing in Afghanistan, those living in rural areas and members of minority groups, especially Hazaras, have become targets of suicide attacks. At the end of July, two ISIS suicide bombers killed at least 80 people and wounded more than 230 during a demonstration organized by Hazaras in Kabul. In late September, a U.S. drone strike killed at least 15 people in a village in Nangarhar province. While Afghan government officials insisted that the victims were ISIS militants, locals claimed they were civilians. According to several reports, dozens of people had gathered to celebrate the return of a prominent elder from his hajj pilgrimage when Hellfire missiles targeted them.