Afghans turn to AK-47, fearing Taliban return or civil war
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Afghan father-of-four Mohammad Nasir has a secret he's been keeping from his family.
The aid worker pulls a television bench out from the living-room wall of his Kabul home. Behind it is a carved out shelf, hiding what he hopes will keep loved ones safe when Western troops withdraw by the end of 2014 -- an AK-47 assault rifle.
Arms purchases are soaring in Afghanistan, along with the price of weapons, a sign that many Afghans fear a return of the Taliban, civil war or rising lawlessness.
An assault rifle cost $400 a year ago. Today, some arms dealers are selling them for triple the price. And it's not just ordinary Afghans who are buying. Warlords who control militias, and former anti-Soviet mujahideen fighters are also boosting the trade.
"Whenever you turn on the TV or radio, the discussion is 2014. I'm not feeling safe now, it's become like doomsday for Afghans," said Nasir, 48, storing the polished second-hand rifle and slamming the TV unit back against the wall.
"People are saying security will collapse, or soldiers will join warlords or the Taliban, so we need something to protect our families when there's a crisis."
The brisk arms business is complicating the government's efforts to pacify a country where the Taliban can strike virtually anywhere, ethnic tensions can easily ignite violence, and warlords are constantly jockeying for influence.
Afghanistan wants to project an image of stability ahead of 2014, a critical year when presidential elections will be held and the 350,000 Afghan security force will take over security.
Any upheaval could also encourage regional powers like Iran and Pakistan to try and gain influence before the Afghan endgame, a widespread fear among officials and ordinary Afghans.
President Hamid Karzai calls the talk of chaos, Western media "propaganda", and says Afghan security forces have made great progress.