There may be many good reasons to question why the United States chose to invade Afghanistan, but at least this week there was a rare glimmer of good news.
Thursday’s New York Times included an encouraging report that in one Afghan community, the villagers last month began an uprising against the Taliban and that since then there has been similar action in dozens of other villages.
“Since early February, when villagers joined with police forces to begin ousting Taliban fighters from this region of rich vineyards and orchards southwest of Kandahar City, hundreds of residents have rallied to support the government,” the newspaper reported. “Nearly 100 village elders vowed at a public meeting Monday to keep the Taliban out as the new fighting season sets in, and Afghan flags are flying from rooftops in the villages, residents said.”
While isolated anti-Taliban uprisings have been reported in various areas of Afghanistan over the past 18 months, the news report appears to be especially encouraging since it was the first in that particular part of the country, which has long been the spiritual center of the Taliban movement.
Of course one uprising, no matter how encouraging it may appear, does not mean the Taliban’s days are numbered. Sadly, the insurgents killed two men in that same area just this week. But, as The New York Times observed, the villagers’ action “has shown what can be accomplished when local resentment over bullying by militants is accompanied by reliable government support.”
This uprising occurred just as the Taliban appeared to be making gains elsewhere in Afghanistan, particularly where American troops have begun the process of pulling out as part of President Obama’s pledge to bring all our combat soldiers home by next year.
Those behind the uprising explained that while it was prompted by anger at the unremitting brutality of the Taliban, it actually was made possible by the newly increased strength of Afghan security forces and by the emergence of a particularly active regional police force. A new police chief, appointed only in January, is believed to have galvanized local support for the Afghan government.
The Taliban has generally maintained a firm hold in parts of southern Afghanistan and placed improvised explosive devices and ambush sites throughout the region. The surge of American and NATO troops and an increase in Afghan security forces have resulted in better security for much of Kandahar province, although in some areas it has also increased tensions with locals.
One of the war’s worst atrocities occurred very near the village where the uprising occurred. Sixteen Afghan civilians were killed in their homes last year, and as a result an American soldier has been accused of killing them in a nighttime rampage.
But, say local officials and villagers, it was actually the Taliban’s callousness that brought on the uprising. Between 300 and 400 civilians were killed or injured by the Taliban in the past six months in the area, the district governor said.
“It’s been a long time coming, but in short, the people have said enough is enough, and they became fed up with the Taliban,” the American commander in the region, Maj. Gen. Robert B. Abrams, told Pentagon reporters last week. The Taliban, he added, has been driven from all but four villages in the district.
This is no guarantee that the tide has turned or that the pending American withdrawal will leave Afghanistan secure against further Taliban attacks, but in the longest war in America’s history, any good news is welcome news.
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