Monday, October 30, 2006

Armed and defiant: a tour of duty with the Taliban army

The rise of the Taliban is worrisome. We have been reassured that they were recently crushed by the British in a recent battle, but this report by Dave Loyn is not encouraging. Here are some notes from his article:

Armed and defiant: a tour of duty with the Taliban army
Published: October 25, 2006 (The Independent [UK])

"The Taliban were demonstrating their control over a wide region. These are the same Taliban that Brigadier Ed Butler, the commander of British forces in the region, said were "practically defeated" in Helmand.
"Instead, they are confident and well-armed, all with AK-47s, and many of them carry rocket-propelled grenade launchers.
"... Their communications equipment and vehicles are new and they have a constant supply of fresh men from the madrassas, the religious schools in Pakistan. Recently, the "Waziristan accord", which has seen Pakistani forces withdraw from parts of the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, has made it even easier for the Taliban to manoeuvre. ... Few carry any possessions other than weapons.

.... They demand and get food and shelter wherever they stop, but it is impossible to say how enthusiastic the villagers really are.
"The Taliban commander said the tactic of suicide bombing, still relatively new to Afghanistan, would be employed far more intensively in the future. "There are thousands waiting at the border," he said. "We are trying to stop them because they would cause chaos if they all came at once."
Â… Driving around the region during the next day with a local commander, Mahmud Khan, was a little like visiting villages in Britain might be with a popular local politician. He knew everybody, and stopped often to chat.He said: "We gained our freedom from the British 160 years ago, and should remain free. We don't accept the claim that they are here to rebuild our country. They have done nothing for us."
... Meanwhile, the scale of institutionalised corruption practised by the Afghan National Army is shocking. They demand money at gunpoint from every driver on the main roads in the south. It was to stop just this kind of casual theft that the Taliban was formed in the first place in 1994."

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