Saturday, October 18, 2008

Smith on the Taliban

The Globe and Mail's Graeme Smith joins the growing chorus of journalists who note that Taliban insurgents have won the active support of many Afghans:

Reversal of fortune leaves Kabul under Taliban's thumb
Graeme Smith, Oct 14

... Interviews suggest that the Taliban have gained control along three of the four major highways into the city, and some believe it's a matter of time before they regulate all traffic around the capital.

That marks a shocking reversal of the insurgents' fortunes...

[T]he insurgents are grabbing the same political high ground the Taliban exploited during their previous sweep to power in the 1990s, by positioning themselves as the best enforcers of security in rural Afghanistan.

The roadblocks have also started to pinch the foreign troops. Military bases find themselves running short of fuel and other supplies...

Truck drivers often leave a rear door open at the back of their tractor-trailers, securing their cargo with a spider web of ropes, so that Taliban can easily look inside and check the shipment for anything forbidden by the insurgency. The Taliban even scrutinize the drivers' customs paperwork to certify that the goods are destined for non-military consumers.

The problem of Taliban influence on the southern highways grew especially acute this summer, said Brigadier-General Richard Blanchette, NATO's chief spokesman in Afghanistan.

“There was this saying, that the insurgency begins where the highway finishes,” Gen. Blanchette said, referring to a popular aphorism among the foreign troops. “Well, for a while it was almost the opposite.”

The Taliban make a point of allowing ordinary Afghans to drive the roads without harming them, but Gen. Blanchette said their actions are starting to affect the average traveller...

Each of the four major gateways into Kabul are guarded by Afghan police, soldiers, and intelligence officers, Col. Abed said, but the insurgents easily bribe their way through. People with loyalties to the insurgents have also infiltrated the ranks of Afghanistan's security establishment, he added: “They're not working honestly.” ...

But at a bus stop on the dusty edge of the Shomali plains, drivers and ticket-sellers say even this road is getting worse.

“Only one road remains now, this road, but in a year you won't be able to travel even this one,” said Nafis Khan, 36, a ticket vendor.

“The Taliban are not the problem,” he added. “When people saw the bad behaviour of the foreigners and government, the Taliban stood up to protect them. Day by day, their power increases.” (link)
  • Two interviews (here and here) with Nir Rosen, who embedded with the Taliban.

No comments: