January 27, 2010: The Taliban have become alarmed at their declining popularity in Afghanistan, and are trying to reverse the process. Thus the recent order for Taliban members to stop destroying schools and attacking students and teachers. This was very unpopular among Afghans, even those who otherwise agreed with the Islamic conservative outlook of the Taliban. Not all Taliban organizations are willing to stop destroying schools. Taliban commanders have also been urged (you can't really order these independent minded guys around) to cut back on trying to enforce conservative living habits (no music or videos, plus mandatory beards on men and burqas on women). Commanders have also been counseled to use less kidnapping, murder and violence in general, when trying to control villagers. While these violent methods work, they make people mad, and create an anti-Taliban population. Afghan and foreign troops have been moving into areas of southern Afghanistan, where most of the population used to be pro-Taliban, and finding many villages willing to form a self-defense militia to keep the Taliban out. People are willing to arm themselves, and organize to resist the Taliban, as long as they have backup. The new American strategy is to provide that backup, and this is creating more areas where the Taliban can't approach most villages, without getting shot at.
But it gets worse. The government continues to court pro-Taliban tribes, and make peace deals with them. This involves payoffs, in the form of cash and government jobs. It also includes the traditional assurances that the tribes would be left to govern themselves, with no interference from the provincial or national governments. The only tribes that are resistant to this pitch are the ones that are deep into the drug business. The vast majority of Afghans are hostile to the drug production. Afghan leaders like the bribes they get from the drug gangs, but not the growing number of opium and heroin addicts in their own families. This growing army of addicts is what can eventually destroy the Afghan drug gangs. The alternative is a narco-state, where the drug money, bought officials and hired guns keep the heroin coming, no matter the damage to the people in the region.