Thursday, June 30, 2005

Resurgent Taliban In Afghanistan

From The New York Times:

"KABUL, Afghanistan, June 29 - The loss of a military helicopter with 17 Americans aboard in eastern Afghanistan on Tuesday comes at a time of growing insecurity here. For the first time since the United States overthrew the Taliban government three and a half years ago, Afghans say they are feeling uneasy about the future.

Violence has increased sharply in recent months, with a resurgent Taliban movement mounting daily attacks in southern Afghanistan, gangs kidnapping foreigners here in the capital and radical Islamists orchestrating violent demonstrations against the government and foreign-financed organizations.

The steady stream of violence has dealt a new blow to this still traumatized nation of 25 million. In dozens of interviews conducted in recent weeks around the country, Afghans voiced concern that things were not improving, and that the Taliban and other dangerous players were gaining strength.

An American Chinook helicopter that crashed on Tuesday was brought down by hostile fire as it was landing during combat in a mountainous border area, American military officials said Wednesday.

Afghans interviewed about the continuing violence also expressed increased dissatisfaction with their own government and the way the United States military was conducting its operations, and said they were suspicious of the Americans' long-term intentions.

'Three years on, the people are still hoping that things are going to work out, but they have become suspicious about why the Americans came, and why the Americans are treating the local people badly,' said Jandad Spinghar, leader of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission in Nangarhar Province in the east, just across the Khyber Pass from Pakistan.

Poverty, joblessness, frustrated expectations and the culture of 25 years of war make for a volatile mix in which American military raids, shootings and imprisonments can inflame public opinion, many here say.

'Generally people are not against the Americans,' Mr. Spinghar said. 'But in areas where there are no human rights, where they do not have good relations and where there is bad treatment of villagers or prisoners, this will hand a free area to the Taliban. It's very important that the Americans understand how the Afghan people feel.'"

Yikes. I thought Afghanistan was a success story for the preznit and vice preznit? Now it sounds like a resurgent Taliban and a resentful Afghan public are making the "success story" in Afghanistan a little less successful.

The good news is, Afghanistan isn't as bad as Iraq. The bad news? There's still plenty of time for things to get worse. And given that the American military is bogged down in Iraq for the conceivable future, if the situation starts to really tank in Afghanistan, I'm not sure how the preznit deals with it other than give primetime speeches and assure Americans that we are "completing the mission."

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