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Taliban Activity Surges to New Levels in AfghanistanTim King Salem-News.com
As Americans spend hundreds of billions fighting the war in Iraq, the picture in Afghanistan grows more dismal.
(SALEM, Ore.) - Afghanistan's former finance minister says the country is in a political, economic and social crisis. Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai calls the Afghan government "one of the five most corrupt governments in the world".
He criticized the Afghan government in a Kabul news conference for not hiring professional people and also there is no punishment or privileging in the government.
He also says there are also many other problems which have in general, caused the people to take distance from the government.
That is bad news as the power of the Taliban, which has long operated its own shadow government in the most dangerous parts of Afghanistan, now spreads north to the doorstep of Kabul, according to The Associated Press.
They conducted interviews with a dozen government officials, analysts, Taliban commanders and Afghan villagers, and leaned that more than seven years after the U.S.-led invasion, the Islamic militants are attempting to reinstitute the government that it ruled Afghanistan with in the late 1990s.
Heavy Activity Near Kabul
Taliban activity has been heavy only thirty miles from Kabul, in Wardak province, which lies just 30 miles from the Afghan capital of Kabul, right on the main highway.
The AP reports that Taliban fighters in Wardak province are taking over district centers, setting up checkpoints on rural highways, and capturing Afghan soldiers.
They reportedly have a governor and military chief in place, with what is described as a pseudo-court system ruled by religious leaders who act as judges.
Like in the 1990's, bands of armed militants in beat-up trucks reportedly cruise the countryside, dispensing their own justice against perceived enemies and lawbreakers.
I became friends with an interpreter in Kabul, Afghanistan whose three-year old daughter was shot in his front yard by Taliban gunmen in a passing pick up truck.
In fact the same night I first met the interpreter, I went out on patrol with U.S. soldiers and Afghan National Police. (The video frame to the left is a report from that patrol)
They explained to me that they made what amounted to approximately $65 a month and that they could not afford to feed their families. They asked the soldiers and I if we would give them our gloves.
They were police officers but they had no protective gear like bullet proof vests, let alone simple winter wear.
The tragedy this nation has witnessed over the last 30 years is indescribable and they are very tough and resilient people; they would have to be to have withstood what they have.
Most that I met and interviewed want nothing but peace, and see the Taliban as a rogue band that does not follow the true teachings of Islam.
"Three years ago the Taliban had no control in Afghanistan. They were spread too thin. Now they have power. They have soldiers. They have governors, district chiefs and judges. It is a very big difference from what you saw in 2003 or even 2005," Abdul Salam Zaeef told reporters. He is the Taliban's former ambassador to Pakistan.
2008 was a hard year for American and NATO forces in Afghanistan. The U.S. is expected to send 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan by next summer.
Those numbers will add to the almost 70,000 international soldiers under NATO and US command who are already on the ground there.
It is not clear if that will be enough.
The US military has already indicated that most of the soldiers would be sent to the east, in Helmand province, where there is also heavy insurgent activity, and to central areas near the capital, Kabul; likely in places like Wardak.
Of course southern Afghanistan is the home and central zone of the Taliban who lead the insurgency. These hardliners were driven from government in a US-led invasion in 2001 when they refused to hand over their Al-Qaeda allies. Buildings throughout Afghanistan that were Taliban strongholds were leveled by U.S. bombs during the opening round of the war there.
In Afghanistan's Kunar Province near the Pakistan border, soldiers don't even refer to enemy forces as Taliban. Derric Winters, an Army Specialist from Casper Wyoming, was based at a camp called "Lumberyard" in the Pesh Valley when I was in the area during late 2006. He was the first soldier to explain to me that they call enemies "anti-Coalition militias" since they are never really sure who they are fighting. (see: They Call It The Lumberyard, A Forward Operating Base in Remote Afghanistan )
Problems when I was in Afghanistan in 2006/2007 were minimal compared to now. Even then, random Taliban checkpoints were too common and something everyone had to be wary of, but today by all accounts they are far more common. Sadly, for good or otherwise, the forces that have been required to make a difference in Afghanistan have been routed to Iraq.
Approximately 75% of America's war assets go toward Iraq, with 25% going to Afghanistan and other conflicts. That is sad as we stand a chance, hopefully still, to make a difference in this country as we should have after the defeat of the Soviet Union in 1989. (see: One Billion Dollars Allowed Afghan Rebels to Defeat the Soviets)
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