- Associated Press - Thursday, August 16, 2012

KABUL, AfghanistanAsadullah Ramin has lost all hope in his homeland – he’s so worried about what will happen when U.S. and international troops leave that he is ready to pay a smuggler to whisk his family out of Afghanistan.

It would cost the 50-year-old, self-employed electronics engineer tens of thousands of dollars to leave his middle-class life in the Afghan capital and start over with his wife and their three daughters.

He has done OK in recent years, even getting contracts from the foreign forces, and he has warm memories of Kabul from his teens  before Soviet forces invaded the nation.

But he wouldn’t hesitate for a moment. He has already paid to have his two sons smuggled to a European country he won’t disclose.

“If I could go in the next hour, I would leave everything – the house, my shop,” Mr. Ramin said, tears welling in his eyes as he spoke in his dusty workshop.

“I have no hope, no hope,” he said, opening his palms as if pleading to be understood.

The United States and its allies have tried to reassure Afghans that they are not abandoning the country when international combat troops leave by the end of 2014.

Donor nations have pledged billions to bankroll Afghan security forces and billions more in development aid. Country after country has signed a long-term partnership pact with Kabul.

But the promises have done little to buoy the hopes of Afghans who are in despair about the future of their nation.

Lack of confidence

Among Afghans throughout the country interviewed by the Associated Press, the worry is pervasive.

Many are deeply skeptical that Afghan police and security forces, which the U.S.-led coalition has spent years trying to build, will be able to fight insurgents and militants without American and NATO fighting alongside.

Worse-case scenarios that some fear: The Afghan forces could splinter along ethnic lines and prompt civil war, the nation could plunge into a deep recession, or the Kabul government – beset with corruption and still fragile despite efforts to establish its authority – could remain too weak to hold off a Taliban takeover.

Just a 45-minute drive south of Kabul, residents of Wardak province directly feel the tenuousness. The province is a battleground for Afghan and coalition forces trying to quash hotbeds of Taliban militants.

Residents quickly warn visitors that it’s dangerous just to go past a checkpoint a half-mile outside the provincial capital, Maidan Shahr.

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