Wednesday, February 25, 2009

'We don't want more fighting here'

While media reports of late do occasionally note that the nascent troop surge in Afghanistan is widely expected to increase violence, few have considered the likely reaction of the Afghan population. Reactions in Wardak province, something of a test case for the surge, appear quite strong, and decidedly negative. Anand Gopal reports from Wardak:

Mini-surge to test out US strategy in Afghanistan
By Anand Gopal - Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

MAYDAN SHAHR, Afghanistan, Feb 18 - The 3,000 new American troops who arrived in recent weeks in Logar and Wardak provinces, both of which border Kabul, face a formidable challenge: establishing control in areas with little government presence and where insurgents operate freely.

In Band-e-chak, for example, a district capital in Wardak, gun-toting Taliban fighters regularly come into town on their motorbikes to do some shopping. They buy their produce and go home, driving past government offices unmolested...

One other Wardak district even lacks a Kabul-appointed governor, leaving only the Taliban administration...

Here in Wardak, the rebel group Hizb-i-Islami controls two districts and the Taliban four. Hizb-i-Islami was a leading guerrilla force that fought against the Soviet invasion in the 1980s and maintains ties from that time.
The rebels' ranks here are drawn mostly from the local population, unlike some other provinces where the Taliban imports fighters...

A group of tribes here, which locals call the Maidani, has historically supported Hizb-i-Islami and contributes fighters to its ranks. Other tribes have allegiances with the Taliban and still others support the Afghan government.

Washington's biggest challenge, however, may be winning the support of a local population that is wary of American troops. "I had a meeting with my constituents," says Roshanak Wardak, a member of parliament from Wardak Province. "They were completely, 100 percent against the arrival of foreign troops."

"People are worried that the injection of more troops will bring more civilian casualties," says Muhammad Hazrat Janan, a member of Wardak's provincial council.

"We don't want more fighting here," says Najibullah, a taxi driver. "When the Americans come, the Taliban attacks us." The others in his car nod in agreement... (link)

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