The Taliban Move In

by Joshua Foust on 10/31/2007 · 3 comments

Two weeks ago, I was wondering if the unreported death of Mullah Naqib of Kandahar would lead to that city being placed under serious threat by the Taliban. Lo and behold:

But in a sign of the weakness of President Hamid Karzai’s government in the area, joyous Taliban fighters seized control of Mullah Naqibullah’s home village in Arghandab within two weeks of his death.

“That two weeks later they were in there on roofs dancing — and inside his house — is devastating psychologically,” Ms. Chayes said. “It’s like a psychological operation on the part of the Taliban, and I think it’s a very effective one.”

It echoes the conversation Ms. Chayes and I had in the comment section of that post. The loss of Naqib is a big deal, and it is resulting in a devastating loss to the relative calm that had fallen over Kandahar (the little secret of Afghanistan is that Kandahar, once the stronghold of the Taliban, had been calm for a long time). I hope Ms. Chayes stays safe, and I hope the Canadians—who are quite able warriors—can fend off the crazies.

Carl Robichaud places this in the context of the other problems facing the Afghanistan mission, and it is deeply worrisome.

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This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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Inkan1969 November 1, 2007 at 8:45 am

Right now, Western media is reporting that the fighting is over, with the Kandahar governor declaring “victory”. Apparently, the Taliban don’t control Arghandab anymore, but I don’t know what that means in reality: the countryside could still be teeming with Taliban fighters, and had been already before this battle.

I remember that last October the Taliban did try a push for Kandahar but NATO/ISAF held them back. David Richards, I think, made a big deal of this battle as showing the Taliban that NATO/ISAF can stand up to them. I’d like to hope that this Arghandab is analogous to that previous maneuver, and that the failure of both maneuvers could hurt the morale of the Taliban and make them more open to negotiation. But I wonder what reality really was in both operations.

And I’m especially dreading the civilian death count that they’ll determine once all the dust settles.

I remember all the hype about a big spring offensive. From the news reports it appeared that no big offensive comparable to the May 2006 offensive sprung up in either spring or summer. But the number of suicide bombings ( particularly the big ones in Kabul ) and kidnappings have apparently raised the level of violence in Afghanistan to a higher level than last year’s in the end. I can only hope that the new Pakistani army attacks on pro-Taliban strongholds in Waziristan will be effective at cutting down the Taliban base of operations, and that NATO can get more clueful that they must increase their commitment in troops and reconstruction in order to fight back the Taliban, depending less on these costly air strikes. Then perhaps Taliban soldiers could dump al-Qaeda, Mullah Omar and leaders from his era, and instead negociate an armistice where they rejoin Afghan society through the Jirga and the governorships. Maybe like what ultimately happened with the Khmer Rouge, they through out Pol Pot and eventually negociated a peace?

BTW: You said Kandahar was calm? Was it calm enough that Western aid workers or even tourists could actually visit the city if they travelled by plane?

Joshua Foust November 1, 2007 at 8:50 am

I meant it in a relative sense. Kandahar was no Uruzgan, for example, and western aid workers like Sarah Chayes have lived there for years. Aid workers and tourists can visit whenever they want to, but every western country on Earth advises against it because of the severe danger to any white people found traveling without armed escort.

Inkan1969 November 1, 2007 at 9:38 am

Thanks for the info, Joshua. I had been wondering how Afghan Logistics and Park Tourism could still advertise package visits to Kandahar.

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