August 29, 2007

Afghanistan: A Fundamentalist Surge Gains Ground

The Taliban is making political as well as military headway in many parts of Afghanistan, and using opium production to further entrench their dominion.

The guns have been silenced at last over Musa Qala, a district of Helmand province newly controlled by the Taliban, according to the Institute for War & Peace Reporting.

With no one willing to challenge them, including the Afghan government and the occupation forces, the Taliban have been able to reinstate Islamic law and customs, take over government and police forces, and ensure security for its grateful residents.

Business pay a tax to the organization, but it has discontinued the practice of conscripting one man from each household for militia service, and has relaxed other rules, such as permitting women to leave the house alone.

But residents are now altering their own lifestyles to avoid upsetting the theocrats — such as not watching TV and not listening to any music besides Taliban songs.

Co-education is still banned, and there are no schools available, especially for girls.

Taliban forces are also manipulating opium production to suit their own needs.

While in 2001 they reduced the poppy crop and punished all offenders, they now control provinces in the south that account for 70 percent of all production, according to Reuters.

Reports have suggested the Taliban gets a cut of farmers’ profits under a corrupt government system, leading more and more of the country to rely on opium production as the only means of economic survival.

Afghanistan now produces nearly 95 percent of the world’s opium, up from 92 percent last year.

In Pakistan, soldiers tasked with fighting Taliban and al-Qaida insurgents along the Aghan border have begun deserting their posts because of moral qualms against “fighting their own people,” reports Deutsch Presse-Agentur.

The force of 90,000 troops is crucial to defending international forces against attacks by insurgents.

Pakistani officials acknowledge the desertions but maintain they are “insignificant.”

This comes as U.S. officials expect to lose a good chunk of their international troop support in Aghanistan from Germany and Italy.

Italy’s foreign minister is calling the hundreds of civilian casualties in Aghanistan “morally unacceptable,” while Germany has lost 32 soldiers, police and citizens in the war.

A majority of Germans — 64 percent — favor pulling out of the conflict, and a vote on the issue is upcoming in Parliament, reports Agence France-Presse.

Sources:

“Helmand: A kinder, gentler Taliban?”
Institute for War and Peace Reporting, August 21, 2007

“Scores of Pak soldiers desert forces”
Deutsche Press-Agentur, August 26, 2007

“Opium crop destabilizes Afghanistan”
Reuters, August 26, 2007

“U.S. worried about fading German, Italian support in Afghanistan”
Agence France-Presse, August 27, 2007

Comments are closed.