Friday, May 30, 2008

It's about fighting all the lawlessness

Reporter Doug Schmidt, having recently returned to cover Afghanistan, writes:

Focus on terrorists, not Taliban, Afghan elders urge Canadians

DAND DISTRICT*, Afghanistan, May 29 - Openly vowing to destroy the Taliban is probably not the diplomatically correct route to take to win over the people of Dand, a rural collection of mud-walled villages south of Kandahar City where even the district police chief complains that some police road checkpoints are populated by "criminals."

Be careful who you label the bad guys, a group of Canadian visitors was advised during a visit with district elders this week.

"The Taliban are our local people. We speak their language, we can work with them," said one village leader...

Dand is considered by coalition forces to be a gateway for armed insurgents into the country's second-largest city, which lies to the immediate north...

"The problem is not the Taliban, the problem is the terrorists," said the elder... [meaning] troublemakers from neighbouring Pakistan and Iran.

"Slowly, slowly the situation has got worse. How come the security situation is getting worse?" another elder wants to know...

"Am I surprised to hear that there are Taliban here? No," Lt.-Col. Dana Woodworth, who commands the Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT), said when told of the we-are-Taliban confession. "It's tough to nail down who is the enemy in Afghanistan," he said.

The Canadian Forces' counter-insurgency tactics are subtly shifting in the area at a time when attacks and contacts with the enemy are on the rise.

"Has there been a transition in mindset? I'd say so," said Capt. Chris Quinlan, an operations staff officer with Joint Task Force Afghanistan headquarters. "The job here is not to be terrorist-killers... it's about fighting all the lawlessness," he added.

While the Taliban are the best-organized among those fighting the democratically elected government, warlords, drug lords, other Islamist radicals, criminal gangs and even rogue elements of the Afghan police are fuelling the insurgency.

"Most of the men recruited to fight us are local men. Killing the young men of the village... is incredibly counterproductive," Quinlan said... (link)
* Dand district, located close to Kandahar city, is not an official district, or at least no longer. Its area is now within Kandahar district (see pdf here).

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