Ghazni Province is falling to the Taliban. There’s no two ways around it: Radio Shariat is transmitting in the area again, and security forces are having a hard time tracking it down because apparently it is being broadcast on a mobile transmitter. Now Tim Lynch reports on a riot in Ghazni City itself:
“The demonstrators moved towards Masoud Chowk area, and the demonstration turned violent. Demonstrators reportedly began throwing stones at ANSF, and ANSF opened fire. The demonstration has apparently dispersed due to the said clash. Casualties have occurred, and initial reports suggest that 4 demonstrators were killed and 8 were wounded.”
Indeed. The people were apparently protesting in response to the abduction and murder of Shams al-Din, a popular anti-American cleric in the eastern part of the province. Naturally, the men who abducted him from Abu Hanifa mosque weren’t identified. The protesters were, according to Press TV, specifically anti-American protesters, assuming the U.S. to be responsible for al-Din’s death.
But here’s an interesting angle to consider as well. Alex Strick van Linschoten tweets of a growing incidence of men getting killed by “Afghans dressed like Americans and pretending to speak in English” in Kandahar. While that sounds bizarre, it might also be more than simple mimicry-of-whomever-seems-scariest: if you as the Taliban can start credibly blaming all bad things on the foreigners, then you are that much closer to kicking them out of your country for good.
There’s no way to know if that’s what is going on in Ghazni. There is almost no media presence there, save the occasional Pajhwok one-liner, and non-essential units are starting to avoid the area (one friend told me the special forces there are advising non-SOF groups to stay away because of the danger). Without more information, we don’t know for certain how things are shaping up in the province as a whole, but given how many districts had zero voting during the elections (reportedly 11), it’s pretty clear the Taliban are claiming the province bit by bit.
Photo courtesy Tim Lynch.