Thursday, April 26, 2007

Afghanistan's Wild West

This report reveals how difficult the situation seems to be on the ground in many parts of the country. Various interests are exerting their power, perhaps in some cases in order to keep the country unstable (some Pakistan officials are accused of this), in other cases because old grudges have inspired violence, in other cases because of ethnic tension,and of course in some cases because the Taliban are trying to break down the social order. In the mean time the government seems impotent.

By Sadeq Behnam and Sudabah Afzali
Institute for war and peace reporting

"Herat, once the most stable of Afghan provinces, is now becoming increasingly dangerous, and analysts say not all the violence is sponsored by the Taleban."
"Herat ... stands at the crossroads of history, bordering Iran and Turkmenistan. Because of its location, it has been buffeted by various ethnic and religious influences which ... are now contributing to rising tensions."
"In the past 12 months, more than 50 people have been killed and at least 100 wounded ..."
"The Afghan government has sought to blame much of the violence on the Taleban-led insurgency ... But local analysts and residents are not convinced."
" 'Herat contains jihadi elements who hate the government because they have lost their jobs' "
"The term 'jihadis' applies to the various armed factions which emerged from the anti-Soviet mujahedin to fight first against each other in the early Nineties, and later against the Taleban. Many of their leaders are still prominent political figures."
" 'People who have designs against the government are able to cover their tracks, so everything gets blamed on the Taleban' "
" 'The most worrying aspect of this is that the police and army also contain elements that are against the government. They have links with the opposition...' "
"Iranian influence can be felt in the Shia community, and there has been some violence on religious grounds"
" 'There are political groups besides the Taleban who are attempting to destabilise the situation in Herat,' said police spokesman Colonel Norkhan Nikzad."

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