Leadership: The Taliban Stumble On To Landmines

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December 24, 2007: As if the Afghan Taliban have not made themselves unpopular enough, one group of them were recently found to be holding a supply of 30 fully functional anti-personnel landmines. These are the most unpopular weapons in Afghanistan, where some 12 million of them were scattered about over the last three decades (mostly by Russian forces in the 1980s). A massive mine clearing operations has, so far, only eliminated about 40 percent of the mines. Thus many Afghans still have to worry about encountering landmines. Last year, over 1,200 Afghans were killed by landmines, and several thousand injured. The Afghan government has destroyed more than half a million landmines that were still available, in warehouses, for deployment. When the Taliban ran the country, they held on to these landmines, although they said that they would not use them. The Taliban accused their opponents (mainly the Northern Alliance) of using landmines during the 1990s. But there were so many mines lying about, that it was difficult to tell if either side was using them on purpose, or just stumbling across older ones.

In the last year, the Taliban have twice enraged the population by kidnapping mine clearing teams (Afghans trained and equipped by foreigners to remove mines). Both times, the Taliban backed down and released the captives. Since 2001, the Taliban have used anti-vehicle landmines, which have destroyed civilian, as well as military vehicles. But what really terrifies most Afghans is a return to the use of anti-personnel mines. Unfortunately, that may be what is happening. These are perfect weapons for the Taliban, and can be used to help them get away from government forces, or as another way to terrorize villagers into supporting them (or at least not ratting them out to the police). This is what is happening in Colombia, where leftist rebels have teamed up with drug gangs, and anti-personnel mines, to try and hang on to their cash crop, and prevent being put out of business.

 


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