KANDAHAR — Crushed under the vicious cycle of violence, many Afghans see peace as a distant dream and yearn for the peaceful days of the Taliban regime more than five years after its ouster.
"We want peace, whether it is with the Americans or the Taliban," Mohammed Shafik, a young carpet seller in the volatile southern city of Kandahar, told Agence France Presse (AFP) on Sunday, December 3.
"We didn't have problems with the Taliban."
Hadji Ramdullah, a shop owner in the Pashtun-majority city, agreed that the Taliban regime "knew how to keep order".
"In the time of the Taliban, Shari`ah was applied in line with our culture and our traditions," he said.
"We did not see all these thefts, these kidnappings, these murders," white- bearded Ramdullah lamented sitting cross-legged in his empty shop.
The Taliban launched from Kandahar the campaign that took it to power with the capture of Kabul in 1996.
Taliban claimed Sunday shooting down a NATO-chartered helicopter in the south with eight people on board using a surface-to-air rocket.
Also Sunday, a bomber detonated an explosives-laden car near a NATO-led convoy in Kandahar, killing two civilians and injuring three British soldiers.
The southern provinces, especially Kandahar and Uruzgan, have seen a sharp increase this year in Taliban attacks.
The latest report of the Afghani-UN Coordination and Monitoring Board (JCMB) on has warned that attacks in war-ravaged Afghanistan are killing four times more people this year.
Days after the 9/11 attacks, the US invaded Afghanistan to topple the Taliban regime and its ally al-Qaeda group.
Five years on, Afghan officials and right activists insist that the West's strategy has proved failure in putting the country on the "path of progress" as promised.
Business has collapsed in Kandahar after a wave of suicide attacks, bomb blasts and assassinations that have struck the Pashtun-majority city this year.
"Lots of people who returned after the fall of the Taliban have in the past months gone back to Pakistan because of the insecurity," said Shafik.
"It's not good for business."
Businessmen are hoping for a return to peace even if it is with those who are responsible for much of the insecurity, Taliban.
A town of more than 400,000, Kandahar is almost cut off from the rest of the world.
Civilian flights have been suspended and access through road checkpoints is a major risk.
Most of the development projects are crippling as the majority of foreign organizations closed or employing only Afghan staff.
Fearful of abductions and reprisals, Afghans try not to tell anyone where they work.