In West Kabul’s fashionable cafes, one subject increasingly crops up in conversation among the educated Afghan clientele.
These young, stylishly dressed students and professionals are often hailed as the bright future of Afghanistan, but a wave of violence in the capital has turned thoughts from building their country, to leaving instead.
A campaign of assassinations in the capital targeting educated and often liberal Afghans has chilled a segment of society frequently held up as one of the biggest achievements of the past 20 years. Killings of journalists, civil servants, judges, activists and moderate clerics have persuaded many that any hopes of a safe future now lie abroad.
Their departure risks a brain drain taking with it the fruits of two decades of education, experience and commitment.
“It’s a very serious subject for us, my friends are all looking for a chance to go,” Marzia Mahajer, a television presenter, told the Telegraph last week.
In recent months, explosions have rung out daily in the city of around six million, as unknown assassins attached homemade “sticky bombs” to cars. Last week saw a run of three or four blasts each morning.
Targets have included the security forces and government officials, but the most high profile targets have been members of civil society. Few attacks are claimed. A large proportion are thought to be the work of the Taliban, with some fearing a concerted effort by the insurgents to cow ideological opponents ahead of any talks to find a political settlement.
The insurgents deny involvement. Some attacks may be attributed to other militants, and yet more still may be the work of the capital’s formidable criminal gangs, who often operate with political protection.