Why Was 'Afghan Star' Winner Nearly Killed?

NATO currently has 130,000 troops in Afghanistan, fighting a growing insurgency that has shown no signs of abating.

NATO commanders routinely praise the Afghanistan's Army and National Police for the strides they have made in keeping the country safe.

Just a week after Forogh was shot, the Taliban launched a major offensive in Kabul, laying siege to several diplomatic and military targets for nearly 18 hours. The operation to clear the militants from the city was conducted entirely by Afghan forces. NATO routinely cites the incident as proof that Afghans can protect their own.

Except when it comes to Forogh, it seems.

"Killing a person," Forogh laments, "has become as easy as killing a bird."

To this day, he doesn't know who tried to kill him. He suspects it was either the Taliban, who were notorious for their loathing of any pop culture with even the slightest connection to anything Western, or, in a more sinister scenario, a Pashtun government official who took issue with his praising of Ahmad Shah Massoud, himself a non-Pashtun.

Since the attack, Forogh doesn't go outside anymore. This is the first time he's spoken to a reporter about what happened.

"I don't do interviews because I want the people who shot me to think I'm not here," he says, his voice conveying a clear sense of defeat. "I'm afraid they might attack me again."

That fear has led Forogh to give up the one love of his life: Music.

"I can't do it anymore," he says, using a famous Afghan proverb to rationalize his fear: "When water goes through a channel once, it will go through that same channel again and again. It means if they attacked me once, they can attack me again."

Even Forogh's boyish looks -- the same ones that made him a heart-throb to millions -- are now gone.

He's grown a big beard, keeps his hair unkempt, and has abandoned western clothing for the traditional Afghan shalwar. He looks more madrassah man than musician.

"I can't take risks," he says. "If they know I'm alive, they will attack me again. That's why I can't even leave my own home."

For many here, what happened to Forogh embodies all that has failed in America's mission in Afghanistan, from the ethnic fault lines that still divide the country, to the inability of local police to catch criminals.

After all, many wonder how Afghanistan can possibly be safe when one of the country's most famous musicians -- somebody who embodied hope for a better future -- could be gunned down in the capital city, with the killer on the loose?

Security in Kabul falls under the jurisdiction of the Afghan National Police. Thousands are scattered throughout the city, manning checkpoints at major intersections, patrolling the streets, and riding in scheduled convoys providing logistical and other assistance to NATO forces.

As the United States works towards withdrawing all its combat forces by the end of next year, the size of the Afghan police force is expected to grow. But Forogh says that thinking about the NATO withdrawal is what scares him the most.

"The government is run by the mafia, there's no safety," he says, repeating the widely held view that the current Karzai administration is rife with corruption.

"I swear the day that ISAF forces leave, it will get even worse," he says. "It will come to the point where people will start eating each other."

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