Thursday, October 16, 2008
Saving the Afghans From Themselves Update
In provinces just south of Kabul, the Taliban have a shadow government that polices roads and runs courts and schools.
The Christian Science Monitor's intrepid Anand Gopal reports on the Taliban's popularity in Afdumpistan.
"Some Afghans live under Taliban rule – and prefer it
Porak, Afghanistan -
After a gang of thieves had continually terrorized an Afghan neighborhood near here months ago, locals decided they'd had enough. "We complained several times to the government and even showed them where the thieves lived," says Ahmad, who goes by one name.
But the bandits continued to operate freely. So the villagers turned to the Taliban. The militants' parallel government here in Logar Province – less than 40 miles from Kabul, the capital – tried and convicted the men, tarred their faces, paraded them around, and threatened to chop off their hands if they were caught stealing in the future. The thieves never bothered the locals again.
In several provinces close to Kabul, the government's presence is vanishing or already nonexistent, residents say. In its place, a more effective – and brutal – Taliban shadow government is spreading and winning local support.
"The police are just for show," one local says. "The Taliban are the real power here." ...
Villagers say that almost every household in Logar Province has Taliban fighters. ...
As nightfall approaches, Taliban fighters slowly emerge from the houses and surrounding hillsides, some lugging rocket-propelled grenade launchers over their shoulders, ready to begin a night's work. The guerrillas set up checkpoints along Logar Province's central highway, stopping trucks and taxis to check IDs. ...
The Taliban now have a strong presence in all seven of Logar's districts, including outright control of four of them, locals say. "In these districts the Taliban patrol openly in the daytime and there is no government presence at all," ...
In areas under their control, the Taliban has set up their own government, complete with police chiefs, judges, and even education committees.
An Islamic scholar heads the judicial committee of each district under Taliban control and usually appoints two judges to try cases using a strict interpretation of sharia law, according to locals and Taliban members. "We prefer these courts to the government courts," says Fazel Wali of Ghazni city, an NGO worker. ...
Abdul Hakim, a Taliban "Emir of Education and Culture" in Ghazni Province, says his group checks all schoolbooks to ensure that they adhere to their version of sharia law. "We want to ensure that our youth are trained in Islamic education," he explains. "First, they should learn sharia law and religious studies. Then comes science and other subjects.... But we don't burn or close down schools if they are in accord with Islam." ...
However, locals say that the number of schools in Taliban-controlled territory is dwindling fast. Of the 1,100 schools operating three years ago in Ghazni, only 100 are left, according to the Ministry of Education. Almost no girls' schools remain, except nearly a dozen in the government-controlled provincial center.
The group also brings its austere interpretation of Islam to the areas they control, banning nonreligious music and flashy wedding parties. In Logar, guards at Taliban checkpoints regularly stop vehicles and beat drivers playing music. ..."
So, again I ask, all these NATO troops have lost their lives, all these families are suffering for what?