Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Taliban's shadow government

Once again, a foreign correspondent finds that the Taliban have a very significant presence, providing governance that the Afghan government cannot, and gaining popular support for doing so:

Afghans turn to Taliban shadow gov't
Parallel administration defies Canadian troops with separate court system, mass events

Tom Blackwell
National Post

KANDAHAR, Oct 27 - They mete out justice in their own courts, ban schools and even organize large religious gatherings, like one that drew thousands of people just outside Kandahar city recently.

As Canadian Forces continue to fight and die throughout Kandahar province, the Taliban have quietly set up parallel governments only kilometres away from the provincial capital, local residents say.

Large swaths of the province for which Canada is responsible have fallen increasingly under the control of the insurgents...

A panel of three or four judges in Maiwand district, for instance, has for the past year been issuing prompt rulings on civil and criminal matters, said one man.

"The Taliban announced to the villagers that if they face any kind of problems, they should come to the court and they will find a transparent judgment," he said.

"They deal with a number of cases: land disputes, family disputes, loan disputes, robbery, killing, fighting ... and the people are happy with them."

In Zhari, the insurgent court has sentenced 27 people to death, said a resident of that district.

Surprisingly, the farmers said the Taliban have issued no edicts against radio and TV or even shaving beards -- all things banned under their government -- though the villages tend to eschew such behaviour out of fear, anyway...

The men spoke of deep frustration at having to choose between insurgents they say are often too harsh, government officials who are crooked and ineffective, and NATO forces who bring them little more than warfare...

"We see trouble from the Taliban, from NATO and from the Afghan government."

All asked that they not be identified, and none would meet directly with a foreign journalist, for fear of repercussions.

They said about 70 per cent of the districts of Zhari and Maiwand, both west of Kandahar city, are under Taliban control...

For the Eid festival marking the end of Ramadan early this month, the Taliban invited people to a special prayer in Senjaray, 15 kilometres west of Kandahar city. Thousands came, with the insurgents handling security.

"It was amazing, and shameful for the current government," he said.

Taliban courts move from place to place, hearing complaints and seeking out witnesses before delivering a decision, which the people tend to heed, said the farmer...

The Taliban do have willing supporters in these areas, including young people who enjoy the insurgent life because "they have guns, power and money, plus motorbikes," said the second Maiwand farmer. But others "don't like to kill people, they don't want to fight." (link)
In recent posts, we have seen that many respected journalists have related similar assessments of the Taliban and the support they receive from locals:
  • (Oct 2008) Graeme Smith reports that the Taliban's power is growing on account of their "position[ing] themselves as the best enforcers of security in rural Afghanistan."
  • (Oct 2008) Nir Rosen relates his experiences embedding with the Taliban.
  • (Sept 2008) The Washington Post's Pamela Constable reports: "More and more, people here look back to the era of harsh Taliban rule from 1996 to 2001, describing it as a time of security and peace."

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