In Kabul on Wednesday afternoon, 78-year-old Noor Mohammed waited for customers outside the gates of a national teachers’ college with a bundle of home-cooked pastries wrapped in newspapers.
“May God keep Mr. Obama,” the old man shouted happily, as students began swarming around his savory wares and news spread of the likely election results in the United States. "He brought us security, roads, bridges and light. Now we need him to keep his troops in our country, or the Taliban will come and crush us."
But among the cluster of students and teachers from half a dozen provinces, munching on snacks between classes, opinions about President Obama’s past actions and future intentions toward their country were skeptical, resentful and suspicious.
Most associated Obama chiefly with the U.S. military role in Afghanistan, and seemed deeply ambivalent about it. Many expressed anger over the presence and behavior of American troops, and yet said they were fearful of what would happen after those forces begin to leave in 2014, as Obama has announced.
“The American government is only here for its own interests, to get rid of al-Qaeda, and we are the victims of that war,” said Ahmad Jawad, 30, a graduate student from Faryab Province. “Where has all the money gone? Where is the democracy they said they would bring? If their troops leave as they say, our forces won’t last a single day.”
Several of the young people praised Obama’s cautious approach toward conflict in the Middle East and suggested a Romney administration would have been more aggressive toward Iran and other Muslim countries. But they seemed to blame Obama for stoking the flames of conflict in Afghanistan over the past four years -- and for now planning to walk away from it.
“Your American troops violated our traditions and customs, they burned our holy Koran, and Americans made the video insulting our Islam,” complained Mohammed Daoud, 25, from Logar Province. “Now they will go and leave behind only more fighting and insecurity. What we need is a mentality of peace.”