From the Formerly Peaceful North

by Joshua Foust on 3/31/2011 · 1 comment

Now, it’s Mazar-i Sharif:

Around 20 tribal elders have been killed in Balkh over the past three years, according to a tally by Pajhwok Afghan News, but residents say the number has exceeded 30.

Some of the more prominent include Nadir Shah, Musa Jan, Malim Asad, Abdul Hameed and Hayatullah, along with Commander Chagha Dar, Noor Muhamamd Bai, Fazal Rahman and Shafiq, who were killed in Char Bolak, Balkh, Sholgar and Chamtal districts…

A few days earlier, hundreds of tribal elders in Gardez, capital of southeastern Paktia province, in a show of solidarity, called on the government to prevent assassinations which were mostly happening in the northern provinces.

This is worrying on several fronts: something like 70 Pashtun elders in Balkh have been killed since 2001, but something like 30 of those have been in the last year. The Taliban have an established a pattern whereby they kill off major figures in a community whilst encircling it and cementing their presence and enforcing control—like in the Arghandab in 2007. ISAF is still paying the price for declining to address, or arrest the decline in Kandahar during that time, and the precisely same pattern is repeating itself in the North.

The biggest different? Atta and his crew of thugs are keeping Mazar-i Sharif itself bottled up tightly enough the Taliban aren’t bothering. Yet. How long until that changes?

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– 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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{ 1 comment }

Boris Sizemore April 1, 2011 at 6:45 am

I was just up there. It is really just starting. About 20ks out of town is the end of the checkpoints. The road is safe until about ten pm at night.

What I am hearing from the locals is that there are a few recon teams operating, and a suicide team somewhere in the town. Night insurgent checkpoints are up on the main highway from time to time.

This is how it starts. Recon teams, mosque reps, and some very low key recruitment. Low key contacts followed by assassination of uncooperating elders.

When you start seeing the IEDs, police checkpoint/station hits/ and shaheed missions they have built up enough forces to fight realistically.
Actually the whole area is on the watch for new comers and ready to go this year.

This is still a “safe area” and in my opinion should be in the immediate turn over category. Those that are resisting the Wahabbis up there are ready to fight if called upon. The Governor is aware of the problem and ready to fight again. He wants ISAF out, by the way.

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