Custom Search

Friday, September 4, 2009

Taliban still a major threat 8 years later

It has been nearly eight years since U।S. forces overthrew the Taliban leaders of Afghanistan, but the war against the Taliban insurgency is bloodier than ever.

The number of Afghan civilians killed in the wake of the war has increased 24 percent in the first six months of this year compared with the same time period last year, according to the United Nations. And NATO and American forces suffered record losses this summer, with 75 troops killed in the month of July, making it the deadliest month for Western troops in the country since American warplanes first began bombing the Taliban in October 2001

The U.S. death toll will remain high for some time as the Taliban has gained the upper hand, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, told The Wall Street Journal in an interview published Monday.

"It's a very aggressive enemy right now," McChrystal told the newspaper in the interview Saturday at his office in Kabul, Afghanistan। "We've got to stop their momentum, stop their initiative. It's hard work."

The Taliban insurgency has blossomed in northern Afghan provinces such as Kunduz and Baghlan, long considered some of the safest territory in the country. And just 20 miles east of Kabul, Taliban "judges" operate openly in the back of pickup trucks, settling legal disputes between villagers in makeshift "mobile courts."

The insurgents are filling a vacuum left by Afghanistan's Western-backed government, which foreign diplomats and military commanders concede suffers from nepotism, corruption and predatory practices।

Challenge to the Afghan government

Afghans will go to the polls on August 20 to vote in the nation's second presidential election since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001. Opposition candidates have blamed the Taliban insurgency's continued growth on Hamid Karzai, the man who has occupied the presidential palace in Kabul for the past seven years.

"Because of the failure of the current administration, in losing the support of its own people, there is a vacuum, and that vacuum has led to a deterioration of security as well as in all parts of life," said Karzai's top challenger, former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah.

McChrystal, a former U.S. joint special operations commander who recently took command of the U.S.-NATO operation in Afghanistan, said the Taliban are challenging the very legitimacy of his partners in the Afghan government.

"The fundamental conflict in any insurgency is fighting for legitimacy with the people and the support of the population," he explained in a recent interview with CNN।

"Who do they look to as their legitimate government? Who do they pay taxes to? Who do they look to for rule of law? Who do they look to as protection? In the case of this insurgency, what we have is an Afghan government that is trying to establish itself around the country. It has problems with corruption. It has problems in some cases with predatory behavior."

Along the traffic-choked streets of Kabul, residents rarely complain about the Taliban. Instead, they often rail against the Western-backed Afghan state.

"What service has this government provided us?" asked Fawad, a young street vendor who sells watermelons for 20 cents apiece. He said that at least once a week, Afghan police show up and demand bribes of up to $100 from vendors, who must pay if they want to continue selling their goods.

"We don't want a tyrant who oppresses the people," Fawad said when asked who he would vote for in the elections. "What we want is security."

Earlier this month, an Afghan employee for CNN, who prefers not to be named for security reasons, witnessed how locals turn to the Taliban to resolve their disputes, in a village barely 20 miles east of the Afghan capital.

He said openly armed insurgents rolled up in a pickup truck, and a Taliban judge began mediating local disputes. In one case, the Taliban official resolved a disagreement between two shepherds whose flocks of sheep had gotten intermixed while grazing.

"I was shocked," said the Afghan eyewitness, who was visiting the village to attend a funeral. "The villagers were lining up asking for help from the Taliban."

NATO commanders say they have had reports of Taliban "mobile courts" operating in similar fashion just outside the southern city of Kandahar.

"There are cases of rule of law being taken care of by the Taliban instead of the Afghan government," said Col. Paul Kolken, a Dutch military spokesman at Kandahar Air Base. He said the Taliban are operating mobile courts as close as possible to the city of Kandahar.

1 comment:

Elise said...

Oh WOW, this is a great post & you have the most gorgeous site here. I had to stop by to leave this comment for you – and to say hello of course ! Your posts are creative and original and you have interesting pictures. It's all perfect ! Thank you for sharing your site and best wishes....