On Fridays residents of the Khwaja Rawash apartment complex in Qasaba, a neighborhood at the foot of Kabul’s northern mountains, climb to their rooftops to fly kites. But on one recent afternoon they stood watching a more ominous sight: plumes of white smoke curling skyward after Taliban mortar shells launched from the mountains to the north hit the airport nearby.
Qasaba is on the farthest outskirts of Kabul, and that’s the point: to keep the war that has plagued Afghanistan for nearly two decades at arm’s length. Khwaja Rawash, which opened in 2017, is home to some 9,000 tenants from an Afghan middle class that has been bolstered since 2001 by foreign aid and military contracts. Now with the departure of foreign troops and with downtown Kabul increasingly under attack from Taliban insurgents, many middle-class residents are choosing to move to the outer edge of the capital.
Apartments here have running water and central heating, a luxury in a city dominated by slum housing heated by polluting woodstoves, and the air is cleaner than it is downtown. Outside, women walk freely and socialize over ice cream, a sign of liberalism and security.