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June 30, 2008

Taliban or Local Strongmen?

The weekend's action around Peshawar in the Pakistani province Khyber Agency seems to have been a ruse. The Pakistani government sent in local paramilitaries to fight alleged Taliban there. But there was not much of a fight at all. The LA Times writes:

With plenty of warning from officials that troops were coming, Islamic insurgents in the mountainous Bara district outside Peshawar, the provincial capital, had simply melted away, disappearing into a remote valley to the north.

It may have been even more of a show as Syed Saleem Shahzad reports for ATOL:

Riding with the paramilitary convoys was Haji Namdar, the chief of the self-proclaimed pro-Taliban organization Amal Bil Maroof Nahi Anil Munkir that is based in Khyber Agency. His presence was meant to be a secret as his organization was supposed to be one of the targets of the operation.

He was taken along to ensure that encounters with militants were kept to a minimum, as was the case - only four people were arrested and none killed.

The groups temporarily pushed away were local warlords rather than some threatening Taliban. LAT:

[A]lmost no one in Bara's dusty and deprived main town had anything bad to say about the vanished warlord, Mangal Bagh, an illiterate bus driver-turned-cleric. Bagh maintained law and order, people said, and the shadow government he set up in recent months was more effective than the state-sanctioned one.

As his constituency seems to like him, the man will certainly be back.

The whole campaign was simply a big show put up by the government of Pakistan which is under pressure from Washington and NATO to do something.

Just like the U.S. blames every problem in Iraq on Iran, NATO and the U.S. see every problem in Afghanistan connected to alleged Taliban in Pakistan's eastern provinces.

The Canadian journalist Graeme Smith says that is wrong. In an interview form Kandahar with RealNews he explains that the center of the insurgency is in Afghanistan. Even if a wall would be build between Pakistan and Afghanistan, he says, the insurgency would just go on as before.

The insurgency uses hit and run methods on a larger scale. They take control over some towns and disperse as soon as 'western' troops show up and start dropping bombs. Then the insurgency moves into another area and repeats the scheme. There are too few 'western' troops to prevent this.

The result is that people do not feel safe under the protection of the government and its heavy handed 'western' enforcers. Kabul loses legitimization and the Taliban start to get tolerated by the people or even win their direct support.

This year Taliban attacks on U.S./NATO and Afghan forces in eastern Afghanistan are up by 40%. Civilian casualties are up by 60%. That certainly does not indicate that 'western' forces are winning the contest. They drop bombs whenever they have 'intelligence' about the whereabouts of some alleged Taliban leader or group and inevitably kill many civilians. Yesterday 33 'militants' were killed. How many of those were civilians? How many people were wounded in that attack?

Who are these people to turn to for security and to feel safe and protected? Just like the people in Bara, Pakistan, the Afghanis will likely look for local strongmen. The 'western' media will then again mistake those for 'Taliban'.

Posted by b on June 30, 2008 at 16:00 UTC | Permalink

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Surgar Weekly, English Edition, Kandahar

Doctor Pokhla: We will vanquish polio!

Kandahar health officials say that efforts are being made to reduce cases of polio in children, and to vanquish this disease during the coming year.

"Although polio cases in children have been reduced from seventeen to seven cases compared to past years, still it exists in Afghanistan as a dangerous disease," Health Department head Dr. Abdul Qayoom Pokhla explained, while inaugurating a three day campaign against polio disease in the southern zone.

According to Dr. Pokhla many polio cases have been registered, and added that this disease is more prevalent in the southern zone of Afghanistan.

Dr. Pokhla stated that with the help of local people, health officials are providing vaccine against polio to those residents of the southern provinces who are not able to reach health care centers. He urged tribal leaders, mothers, and fathers to help health care workers in their vaccine campaign against polio, and let the health workers vaccine those children under five years of age.

The governor of Kandahar, Assadullah Khalid, called the campaign a very important first step in vanquishing the disease, and promised continued effort to work together with the health department to eradicate polio from the southern zone.

Although health officials had expected to eliminate the disease years ago, polio persists in Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Nigeria.

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Five hundred schools closed

The Afghan minister of education once again showed his deep concern over the hundreds of schools being closed in the southern provinces of Afghanistan, and urged those who are opposing the government to stop burning schools.

Minister Haneef Atmar spoke on the 29th of June in Kabul, saying five hundred schools are closed due to security and for other reasons. Mr Atmar said that schools are the wealth of all people, and spoke out against the opposition groups thought to be provoking arsons.

Afghan officials have made a good effort to inaugurate new schools in every part of the country, but they have been thwarted in the southern provinces. The minister had expressed similar concerns on an earlier tour, and had promised to reopen the schools, however they remain closed for security reasons.

Currently eighty out of one hundred schools have been closed in the unstable province of Zabul. According to the education officials the closure of these schools prevents some 300,000 students from receiving education. The same situation is repeated in Afghanistan's southern and southeastern provinces, and in areas near the capital of Kabul, leaving hundreds of thousands of children without basic literacy skills.

Opposition group of the Taliban rejected government claims that they have burnt or destroyed secular schools.


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High ranking security officials sacked

The Interior Ministry of Afghanistan has removed the Kandahar prison security commander and other high ranking security officials from their positions for not taking serious measures to prevent attacks like the well-coordinated Taliban-led prison break in Kandahar.

During the attack on the prison, nearly one thousand prisoners, including four hundred political prisoners, managed to escape.

The interior ministry stated they have sacked security commander Sayed Agha Saqeeb, security chief Amanullah, and head against crimes Abdul Satar. The three officials have been remanded to the prosecuting attorney's office for interrogation and possible criminal charges of misconduct. The ministry also reported arresting several other officials related to the case, but will not reveal their names unless charges are filed.

The Kandahar prison break was one of the largest attacks in recent history, and security experts said no such attack has ever been attempted before.

The interior ministry has appointed Matiullah Asakzai as the new security commander in Kandahar. Mr. Asakzai had worked as a high ranking security commander previously.

Kandahar, like other unstable south provinces of Afghanistan, has seen recent sharp increases in violence.

Posted by: Atman | Jul 1 2008 5:58 utc | 1

In Afghanistan, the West, in the form of USuk and NATO, plus the humanitarian re builders, are engaging in a hold-off, stand-off, kind of action. Mild so called warfare, occupation of small parts of the territory, control of a puppet Gvmt, some social actions, etc. All the parties walk over each other and are at cross purposes. The different parties hold off, watch and make some sorties, kill some, withdraw; build a road; occupy the road; destroy the road; have a grand party, champagne or grilled goat; get FAO aid, skimmed, etc.

Why the westerners are doing it many of them have no clue: but they are paid handsomely and the opportunities for perks not to say scams are huge. Kaboul has lovely houses with plenty of servants and guards, fences etc. It is an exciting life, and allows one to dominate, underpay, and kill (and rape.) The drugs scene is there to be tapped - a little courage and huge benefits can be yours.

All the dominant actors prey on the lower ones. It is a free market, guys, a free market with elites protected by guns and helicopters...

One vision.


Posted by: Tangerine | Jul 1 2008 20:13 utc | 2

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