Friday, March 6, 2009

Coming apart at the seems

Chris Sands reports on a man we've covered on this blog, Ghulam Yahya Akbari, an ethnic Tajik in Herat who has taken up the banner of jihad against the Afghan government, explicitly allying himself with the Taliban. According to Sands, the warlord now has areas under his authority where a shadow government operates, much as in Taliban-held areas:

Brutal insurgent rules the mountains
Chris Sands - The National (UAE)

HERAT, Feb 17 - A former member of the US-backed Afghan government is now an insurgent commander in the western province of Herat.

Ghulam Yahya seems to rule a vast mountainous area here, with his men launching regular attacks on the police and imposing fundamentalist Islamic law by amputating the limbs of criminals.

While visibly concerned that talking to a foreign journalist would put their lives at risk, local residents said they supported his stance...

Having been warned that it was too dangerous to travel to his stronghold of Siwoshan, in Gozarah district, The National met residents from there in Herat’s provincial capital instead. Although it is impossible to independently verify their claims, they all gave similar accounts of the situation in separate interviews.

Mr Yahya was described in almost mythical tones as a vigilante fighting for justice...

According to residents, he has established his own justice system. Along with amputating the limbs of thieves, he also reportedly blackens the faces of captured criminals and parades them on donkeys through villages...

Locals put the number of men under Mr Yahya’s command at about 500...

Another local rebel commander and former government official goes by the name of Malim Majid. He was the head of Herat airport before the Taliban came to power and, with between 50 and 100 of his own fighters, is now an ally of Mr Yahya, though the two militias do occasionally clash... (link)
Elsewhere, Sands notes something that Canadian forces are undoubtedly finding out: Even when insurgents kill civilians, foreign troops often take the civilians' rage because of their failure to provide security for these past several years.
Civilian dead threaten to hand victory to the rebels
Chris Sands - The National (UAE)

KABUL, Feb 19 - In Afghanistan it does not matter if the victim was killed by the Taliban, US forces or Nato soldiers. Relatives of the dead now usually blame the government and the occupation for their loss...

Each civilian death is a defeat for the occupation. Many Afghans had faith in the promises they were given about peace and democracy, so the bloodshed and violence they have suffered instead is regarded as an act of betrayal...

All sides in Afghanistan are guilty of killing the innocent, but only one benefits – and that is the insurgency.

The majority of the population does not need to support the Taliban for the rebels to be victorious. It is enough for them simply to feel disillusioned with the government and its allies... (link)
And Sayed Karim reports on support for the Taliban from an unusual quarter:
Nato forces lose ground to Taliban in Khost
Sayed Karim - The National (UAE)

KHOST, Feb 20 - If the residents of Khost come to Haji Feroz Khan wondering what to do about the bloodshed in their midst, he will tell them there is only one side worth fighting for.

“I know lots of people who have sold their land and their property to join the Taliban,” he said. “It is the right way and I support that.”

Mr Khan is an imam and former United Nations employee...

Since the foreigners have come the security has gotten worse. They are not here to bring peace, they are here to bring conflict.” ...

Another Khost resident, Abdullah Zazai, 40, fled from his village home to the provincial capital because he feared that foreign soldiers would either bomb or raid his house. However, he said he felt most secure in those rural areas that were under the rebel’s control...

While residents often express their admiration for the insurgency, they also admit that rebels do move freely back and forth across the frontier... (link)

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