[A-List] Afghanistan: the blowback continues
Michael.Keaney at mbs.fi
Sun Mar 10 23:38:47 MST 2002
US faces guerrilla warfare
Taliban and al-Qaida fighters lie low around Gardez, waiting for the
chance to fight back, writes Rory McCarthy
Friday March 8, 2002
The Afghan capital, Kabul, today looks a vastly different city from the
one the Taliban ruled until just five months ago. Music fills the
streets, women walk unhindered through the bazaars, some without their
burqas. Tajik soldiers from the northern provinces stand guard outside
government buildings where the Taliban's Pashtun troops once stood. And
Dari, the Afghan dialect of Persian, has returned to replace the
Taliban's Pashtu language in the capital. Aid workers have flocked back
to the city and for the first time in years western diplomats openly
drive through the streets visiting ministers and commanders.
But the peace in Kabul is yet to spread to the rest of Afghanistan. Just
three hours drive to the south, American troops are fighting their
biggest battle of the war, and in the mountains around the eastern town
of Gardez they are taking heavier casualties than ever before.
In hundreds of villages around Gardez there are Taliban and al-Qaida
fighters and their sympathisers, lying low and waiting for the chance to
fight back. The American military operation will soon have to shift from
the set piece battles it has faced until now to a prolonged and
dangerous guerrilla conflict.
In the town of Gardez tensions are strained. Some Afghan commanders have
been excluded from the battle, others are fighting against Taliban
commanders who were once their closest friends and comrades in arms.
Today two black, red and green government flags are flying over the
small, dusty, mud-brick town with its plethora of butchers' shops,
market stalls and boot polishers. But much of the sympathy in the town
lies still with the Taliban, not the new government in Kabul.
Here there are only a handful of the video shops which fill Kabul's
streets. Few houses have the satellite dishes that adorn most of the
capital's residential areas.
While most of Gardez is populated by Pashtuns there are also many
Persian-speakers, who are in the minority across the south, and a
handful of Shia Muslims. Yet the town is largely built on a broad base
of deeply conservative Taliban support.
Even Taj Mohammad Wardak, the newly appointed governor of Gardez, who
has spent the past decade living in Los Angeles, is quick to insist that
former Taliban figures deserve to be reinstated in the new government.
"The Americans shouldn't bomb all the Taliban," he said. "There are good
Taliban and there are bad Taliban. We should accept the good Taliban
Many across the eastern provinces share this feeling. The bazaar at
Gardez was once the regular haunt of the Arab, Pakistani and Chechen
fighters who flocked to Afghanistan to follow their hero, Osama bin
Laden. Their deep religious conviction was often respected. Now those
same fighters are hiding in the mountains being pounded by American
B52s, F16s and Apache attack helicopters.
Few here believe peace has really dawned in a country torn apart by more
than 20 years of war. "I don't think the fighting will ever finish in
Afghanistan," said Abdul Matin Hassan Kheil, who commands around 100 of
the Afghan soliders now fighting in the mountains near Gardez.
"In Afghanistan people always want to be more powerful than anybody
else. This fighting will continue for a long time."
Full article at
Mercuria Business School
michael.keaney at mbs.fi
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