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“We don’t know if the government has been successful or not,” said Mohammad Ashaq, 17, chatting inside a tiny pharmacy in the city. “Most people think that after 2014, the government will not exist.”

Hanging over the fear is a sense that history could repeat itself.

Afghans felt abandoned by the U.S. after 1989, when the Soviet army withdrew from the country. U.S. support to mujahedeen fighters battling the Soviets dried up quickly, and Afghanistan sank into civil war as militias and warlords clashed for power and, in the process, devastated the capital Kabul.

That was followed by the rise of the Taliban and years of rule under the repressive regime.

In one sign of the lack of confidence, the number of Afghan asylum seekers in 44 industrialized countries went up 34 percent in 2011 over the previous year, according to the latest figures issued by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

In 2011, a total of 35,700 Afghans sought asylum, compared with 26,000 the previous year.

Another ominous sign: the real estate market in Kabul.

Donors and pledges

Broker Mir Ahmad Shah said this is the worst of his seven years selling properties in the capital. No one wants to buy.

A parcel of land that went for $100,000 last year now is priced as low as $60,000; but even at that cut-rate price buyers aren’t tempted.

It’s in part because of increased security concerns in the past year, but it’s “especially because of the announcement about the coalition leaving,” Mr. Shah said.

“I’m not hopeful for the future and it’s not just me,” he said, waving his hand toward small shops across the street where a vendor was selling live chickens. “The shopkeepers, the businessmen – they are all [feeling] hopeless.”

One of his listings is the house of a man moving to Canada, he added.

The Americans insist that the pledges of international support going forward will prevent the worst from happening.

The pledges make the possibility of another civil war or deep recession “unlikely scenarios,” according to Ryan Crocker, who just stepped down as U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan.

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