Skip to comments.Taliban Tighten Their Grip On Afghan Villagers With Terror Tactics
Posted on 03/05/2004 8:52:43 PM PST by blam
Taliban tighten their grip on Afghan villagers with terror tactics
By Hamida Ghafour in Shah Joy
The Taliban's intimidation tactics are simple. A convoy of about 20 Honda motorcycles surrounds a house, looking for people who support America or President Hamid Karzai.
If they find one, they kill him. If not, the householders are beaten to serve as a warning to others.
People in the village of Shah Joy, 180 miles south-west of Kabul, are torn between supporting a moderate government struggling to reconstruct the country and supporting the Taliban simply to survive. It is a common dilemma in about a third of Afghanistan's southern regions, where the Taliban are regrouping and waiting for the spring to launch attacks against the central government and its American allies.
They are concentrating in the province of Zabul, where the coalition never managed to root out the extremist movement. About 70 per cent of Zabul is now either controlled by supporters of the Taliban or completely lawless.
"They come day and night. They are lying near the mountains and sometimes even in the mosques," said Haji Mohammad, 28, a soldier whose two brothers were severely beaten because he works for the local government. "They were beaten in the mosque in open daylight. Their hands and feet were tied and the men wanted to take them away. But with the help of the village elders they were released. Since one year I cannot go home. They would not let me live."
On the main road linking the province to Kabul, the Taliban set up roadblocks in broad daylight and scrutinise vehicles for potential targets to kill or kidnap.
Four engineers working on the main road have been kidnapped and 15 Afghans working for the central government have been killed in the last three months. No foreigners venture to the province. Aid workers fled long ago. It is estimated that about 700 armed Afghan Taliban who are ethnic Pathans have crossed the border from the Pakistani cities of Peshawar and Quetta where they are trained and funded.
The commanders are offering a motorcycle, an AK47 and a satellite telephone to anyone willing to rob or bomb a government target.
A successful hit is worth £110. Killing an enemy has an added incentive of a £495 bonus.
The strategy appears to be to make Zabul too difficult to work in, angering the local population and turning support away from central government to the Taliban. "They are taking advantage of our poverty," said Gen Ayoub Khan, the security commander for Zabul. "The administration is weak and incapable of controlling an area, therefore the local people are not relying on them.
"In the Dai Chopan district there are reports of Punjabi commanders. We arrested two Talibs a month ago and they told us that Pakistani colonels told them to destabilise Afghanistan."
Mohammad Azghar, a former Taliban member now a soldier working for the local government, said in villages where there are virtually no jobs, and the grape and almond farms have been turned to dust by a seven-year drought, the money is tempting.
"I killed two Taliban commanders and they had 200,000 Afghanis [£2,500] in their pockets and a pistol," he said.
"A soldier here does not make that much money. The commanders distribute the money to fighters and say, 'Go burn a school, we will give you money. Go rob a house, we will give you money'."
The Americans are trying to win the hearts of the Afghans with the promise of reconstruction. Next month, the military will form in Qalat, the capital, a provincial reconstruction team, quasi-military units of up to 100 people who provide security and help to rebuild roads, schools and clinics. It is hoped their presence will also establish a secure environment, especially in remote villages, for other charities to return.
But the deputy governor, Malawi Mohammed Omar, said the Americans had a difficult task because they were not talking to village elders willing to co-operate and identify the enemy.
"The US would not recognise Mullah Omar if he stood in front of them," said Mr Omar. "Until the Americans are on the ground and negotiating with the local community leaders and disarming them they will not win."
Which presents an attractive alternative for these folks ... Kill the stinking Taliban thugs and rob them. Apparently they're loaded.