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caught in the crossfire of the superpowers


Afghanistan is of great geopolitical importance.

Not only does it have its own valuable metals, ores, gas and oil, it also lies between regions with significant reserves of natural resources such as the Caspian Sea and Central Asia. As a result, Afghanistan has repeatedly found itself caught between two camps.

Since 34 years the country and its people have been plagued by conflict. The war is being increasingly waged with drones by the international forces – such as the US, NATO and ISAF troops – while the Taliban and other insurgent groups employ guerrilla tactics.

The victims are civilians who are caught in the crossfire. In the six months from January to June 2013 alone, 1,319 civilians were killed and 2,533 wounded.


Population31 million (2013)
Official languageDari (Farsi), Pashtu
Life expectancy50 years
GDP per capita1,100 US dollars (2012)
Kabul vColombia

Najmuddin - Director orthopaedics center ICRC Kabul


Najmuddin was born in Panjshir, Afghanistan, in 1966 - the family’s first son. His father had high expectations of him. 18 years later these were abruptly destroyed when Najmuddin drove his car over a landmine.


Local people


Farzana Sadat works in the ICRC orthopaedic centre in Kabul. Omar Hemat lost both legs in a landmine explosion and is a patient there. Curzio Conrad has worked as a translator for the ICRC in Afghanistan for many years. With the help of the ICRC, Abdul Wahab, Awal Khan and Mohammad Dawood visit their families in the military prison in Bagram. They describe their concerns and hopes.

What do you have in your pocket?

What are you proud of?

When are you happy?

What do you worry about?

How do you imagine your children’s future?

The conflict

At the end of the 1970s, Afghanistan is caught in the crossfire between the superpowers. In 1979 the Soviets march in, sparking ten years of civil war.

Then the Taliban seizes power. For twelve years now the USA and NATO troops have been fighting Al-Qaeda. After amending its war objectives several times, the USA has scheduled the withdrawal of its forces for 2014.

But no end to the unrest can yet be predicted: the country currently appears to be too unstable and divided.

Timeline of major events

1979 last proxy war between the USA and the USSR last proxy war between the USA and the USSR
Mujahedin fighters in Afghanistan resist reforms by the DVPA, Afghanistan’s left-leaning ruling party.
1989 withdrawal of Soviet troops withdrawal of Soviet troops
The signature of the Geneva Accords of 14 April 1988 initiates the withdrawal of Soviet troops, which is completed in 1989.
1992 victory of the mujahedin victory of the mujahedin
President Najibullah is overthrown. The mujahedin, under the leadership of Ahmad Shah Massud, seize power. The country then disintegrates into civil war. During this period the Taliban emerges, taking the city of Kandahar in the south of Afghanistan three years later and gradually advancing on Kabul. Massud eventually abandons the struggle and withdraws his troops to the Panjshir Valley.
1996 the Taliban take power the Taliban take power
The Taliban occupies Kabul. In the following year Pakistan is the first country in the world to recognize the Taliban regime. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates follow suit.
2001 death of Massoud, attacks on the World Trade Center death of Massoud, attacks on the World Trade Center
The Taliban regime protects the Al-Qaeda leadership. The “war against terror” begins.
 On 9 September 2001 Taliban adversary Ahmad Shah Massoud falls victim to a suicide attack in Afghanistan. Two men purporting to be Belgian journalists of Moroccan origin explode a bomb during an interview.
2001 - 2014 war against the Taliban war against the Taliban
The plan is for a short war, but it becomes a long, bitter conflict. Taliban combatants and other insurgents, US and ISAF troops, Afghani security forces and tribal militias are involved in constant firefights. The victims are civilians who are caught in the crossfire.
2014 scheduled withdrawal of troops and presidential elections scheduled withdrawal of troops and presidential elections
USA and NATO plan their withdrawal. Even after the withdrawal of the troops, the Afghani government is dependent on the support of the USA and its allies. Continued military and financial support for Afghani troops is now to be governed by an agreement.


Owing to the withdrawal of international troops and the presidential elections, significant changes are coming to Afghanistan in 2014.

"We Afghanis have a dream: one day we shall no longer hear the noise of battle, the war will be over. All that was simply too much."
Najmuddin, Director orthopaedics center ICRC Kabul
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