Correspondent Chris Sands, who has been one of the best journalists on the scene in Afghanistan, has a perhaps not so surprising report:
Afghans back Taliban, says abducted senator
KABUL, Oct 2 - It was early one morning this summer when Abdul Wali Ahmadzai began to understand the true strength of the Taliban in his province.
As the senator for Logar travelled to a meeting, eight men armed with weapons including Kalashnikovs and rocket-propelled grenade launchers stopped his convoy on a dirt road.
He was held hostage for more than two months and would come away having witnessed a reality some insist does not exist.
“The important point is that the people support the Taliban. This is the main problem: now the people do not like the government and they support the Taliban,” he said in an interview. . .
Mr Ahmadzai, 40, had been an aid worker and a pharmacist before opting – reluctantly, he says – for a career in politics. . .
Over the two months he would be held at five or six different locations, always moving under the shelter of darkness. He stayed in empty homes and on one occasion was detained for 15 days near the office of a district governor.
“The government’s control was just on the main road and the places surrounded by walls and wire,” he said.
With him throughout was his driver, who had also been abducted. In the second half of their ordeal they were transferred to an area bordering the provinces of Ghazni, Paktia and Logar. Mr Ahmadzai claims hundreds of Taliban were living openly there, holding public meetings, mingling with the population and using police vehicles. (link)
Here's the senator's bio from the Afghan government web site:
Abdul Wali Ahmadzai
Senator, Logar Province
Senator Abdul Wali Ahmadzai, son of Haji Akbar Khan, was born in 1967 in the village of Chuni in the center of Logar province. After completing his primary and secondary education, he studied health education and pharmacy.
Sen. Ahmadzai has worked with international relief organizations, including the International Rescue Committee and CARE. As a refugee in Pakistan, he worked in the field of health education, preventive and curative medicine. He received several appreciation letters. He speaks Dari and Pashto and also knows English.
Sen. Ahmadzai is a former member of the Mahaz Milli (National Front) and Harakat-e-Inqelab-e-Islami (Islamic Revolutionary Movement) parties. He was indirectly elected to the Meshrano Jirga through Provincial Council elections in Logar. He is married and has seven children. (link)
- See here for much more on various knowledgeable observers who state that the Taliban has gained significant, often majority, public support.