1st April 04:41
Bush's other "victory". Afghan Political Violence on the Rise!
Human Rights Watch released a report this past week saying that
warlords, whom the U.S. military helped put in power so they could
fight the Taliban and al Qaeda, are terrorizing much of the country.
Their gunmen are intimidating journalists and political opponents as
well as robbing, detaining and raping ordinary Afghans with impunity,
the report said.
At the same time, cooperation between the U.S. military and regional
leaders has not always succeeded in thwarting the Taliban and al Qaeda
-- notably in Kandahar.
Twice in recent months, large Taliban groups have attacked U.S. or
allied forces, and Kandaharis are increasingly critical of the United
States for not acting more aggressively to stop terrorism and protect
Recent efforts to flush out Taliban forces have brought some tangible
results, but have failed to stop them from regrouping over the
Pakistani border, beyond the reach of coalition forces.
In early June, Kandahar provincial soldiers killed about 40 people
they identified as pro-Taliban fighters during a clash six miles north
of Spin Boldak, near the Pakistani border.
Afghan Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali later said many of the dead
carried Pakistani identification cards or mobile phones.
On July 19, a large group of pro-Taliban fighters fired on a convoy of
U.S. Special Forces and other coalition soldiers patrolling near Spin
The coalition soldiers returned fire and called in AH-64 Apache
helicopters, killing between 22 to 24 enemy fighters, the U.S.
A Kandahar police official said the dead men were killed as they fled
over the border into Pakistan.
Mohammad Anwar, an Afghan trader who grew up in Spin Boldak and now
lives in the Pakistani town of Chaman, said he is perplexed that
high-ranking Taliban officials live openly in his prosperous
In late June, he saw guns, money and motorbikes being dispensed at a
local mosque, he said.
"Everybody knows there are terrorists there, but they don't take
action," Anwar said.
"It scares me."
Gen. Mohammad Akram Khakrizwal, the Afghan central government's
highest-ranking police official in Kandahar, said he too has watched
with alarm as remnants of the Taliban grow more visible and active.
After coalition forces routed them, Taliban leaders fled and hid for
six months, he said.
Then they started appearing openly in Pakistan.
"They wanted to know what the reaction would be," Akram said.
"After there was no reaction from the coalition or the government,
they started regrouping."
Before long, he said, the Taliban and its allies began slipping into
Afghanistan to disseminate anti-government, anti-coalition propaganda
fliers, which Afghans call "night letters."
"Then they started burning schools and, again, no one said anything,"
"The third phase was explosions. . . . Now they are targeting mullahs
and police officials."
To Akram, who fought the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, the
progression looks ominously familiar.
"It is dangerous," he said.
"During the Russian invasion, we did the same thing: step by step.
These Taliban have been organizing step by step.
"Now that they have not been stopped and they are in larger numbers,
they will make the situation worse for the coalition forces and the
From The Washington Post, 8/2/03:
Afghan Political Violence on the Rise
Instability in South Grows as Pro-Taliban Fighters Attack Allies of
By April Witt
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 3, 2003; Page A01
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan --
There is an armed guard in the house of God.
At the front gate of the Abdurrad Akhunzada mosque, a turbaned
watchman paces warily in the dusty twilight, hiding his Kalashnikov
beneath an outsized scarf so he doesn't frighten men arriving for
A remote-controlled bomb exploded at the mosque last month, injuring
the mullah and 24 worshippers as they knelt, hands outstretched in
Two days later, a mullah, who had hung the Afghan flag in his mosque
and said good Muslims support the nation's central government, was
shot to death as he sat praying, a book open in his hand.
A third Kandahar mullah was attacked this week, executed outside his
mosque by gunmen on a motorcycle.
All three clerics served on a religious council that recently decreed
that, contrary to pronouncements by the Taliban Islamic movement,
there is no legitimate jihad, or holy war, against the central
government or the foreign troops that support it.
A year and a half after the United States and its allies drove the
Taliban from power, acts of politically motivated violence have become
frequent and fierce in the key southern province of Kandahar, the
birthplace of the Taliban and the source of countless shifts in Afghan
politics and culture over the centuries.
Bands of 50 or more pro-Taliban fighters have begun appearing around
Kandahar, both along the border with Pakistan and in the interior of
Just over the border in the Pakistani town of Chaman, high-ranking
Taliban officials are meeting openly and handing out guns, money and
motorbikes, according to a witness and Afghan police officials.
Poor Afghans who don't share the Taliban's strict interpretation of
Islam or its mission of jihad are nevertheless accepting Pakistani
money to plant land mines and bombs in Afghanistan, they said.
In addition to Taliban fighters, other men with guns -- warlords --
dominate much of Kandahar, allowing the trade in illegal drugs to
Civic activists who once hoped to provide an alternative to both
radical fundamentalists and marauding militiamen feel silenced and
"If someone rises up to say something about democracy or social
equality, then tomorrow he won't exist anymore," said Mohammad Wali
Hotek, head of one of the largest tribes in the Pashtun ethnic group,
which is predominant in the south.
"As there is no rule of law in Afghanistan, the gunmen can do anything
"We are tough people," said Hotek, who was praying at the Abdurrad
Akhunzada mosque when the bomb exploded there last month.
"The experiences we are having now make us lose our hope for the
Kandahar police also say they feel demoralized and targeted.
In July alone, one district police chief was shot to death on his way
home from work and another was killed along with five of his officers
when a band of about 20 armed men stormed their compound, police
This past week, five or six government officials were ambushed and
killed along the same isolated road where a Red Cross water engineer
was executed in late March.
The mood in the province is so tense that when a major dust storm
developed earlier last week, blotting out the sky with mustard-colored
sand, some Kandaharis read it as a portent.
"It just feels like something is building," said Sarah Chayes, an
American former journalist who now runs a pro-democracy group called
Afghans for Civil Society.
"One year ago I didn't have any problem driving around Kandahar by
myself. Now I feel it is a lot more dangerous."
Kandahar's mounting security problems have dire consequences for the
province's poorest people.
In the four months since the execution of the Red Cross engineer, the
number of nongovernmental organizations with foreign workers in
Kandahar has dropped from 22 to just seven or eight, said Talatbek
Masadykov, head of the Kandahar office of U.N. Assistance Mission in
Those who have remained often stick close to the city of Kandahar
rather than risk traveling to outlying districts. Crucial
reconstruction and humanitarian aid, from bridge repairs to food
distribution, have slowed or stopped as a result, he said.
The growing instability in Kandahar has ominous implications for the
rest of Afghanistan.
As the heartland of the Pashtuns, whose monarchs ruled Afghanistan for
much of the past three centuries, and the place where the Taliban
began its rise to power in the early 1990s, Kandahar has long been the
trendsetter for the rest of the country.
"Kandahar was the first capital of Afghanistan," said Masadykov.
"Historically, those who know Afghanistan say that if you can solve
the political issues in Kandahar, you can solve the issues in the
whole country. If you can't do it in Kandahar, it means that you are
Another Bush mission accomplished. The kid really knows how to get
things done, doesn't he.