As we crawled along in the chaos that is Kabul’s afternoon rush hour yesterday, Iqbal casually turned to me and mentioned that his wife had gone into labor.
Iqbal, my translator and local producer in Afghanistan, had told me when I arrived that his wife was almost due. Still, I was a bit taken aback with his calm, cool demeanor.
He told me he still intended to go with me to an interview, but I insisted he go to the hospital, even if he had to wait outside on the street as regulations required. Iqbal relented and rushed away in a taxi hoping to arrive before the baby did.
I have been in the city for almost a week now. It is my first visit here since 2007 and I have noticed a marked deterioration in security accompanied by a marked increase in anxiety among the people who have lived through 30-years of war and violence.
On the day I arrived, bleary-eyed from no sleep, former President Burhanuddin Rabbani was assassinated in his home. Rabbani welcomed a man into his residence believing he was carrying a message of peace and reconciliation from the Taliban. Instead, he was carrying explosives in his turban.
Rabbani, a former warlord who waged war against the Taliban and his rivals in the past, may have been a surprising choice to lead the government appointed council charged with trying to forge a lasting peace. Still, in his death he has been honored as a martyr, with posters and banners suddenly appearing throughout the capital.
The assassination, coming just a week after the Taliban staged a siege in the diplomatic district of Kabul, has given Afghans more reason to expect violence than peace in the near future. They speak of their worry about what will happen next, particularly after foreign forces leave in 2014.
Yet with their legendary resilience, residents in the city move on, working, shopping and, as in Iqbal’s case, gathering with family to mark moments of joy.
His son, Bilal, was born in the early evening hours of yesterday. Before the first day of his life came to an end, the sound of gunfire once again echoed on the streets of Kabul. Reports say an Afghan employee of the US government opened fire inside a building widely known to be the CIA’s compound in Kabul. One American was killed, another injured. The Afghan also died.
A birth, then more violence and death. A strange rhythm to life in this troubled city.