Counter-Terrorism: Parents Take Up Arms Against the Taliban

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February13, 2007: Terrorists have to be careful that they don't do something that will enrage, rather than terrify. A recent example of this can be found in Afghanistan, where the Taliban attempt, to terrorize Afghans into shutting down secular schools, backfired. Last year in southern Afghanistan, the Taliban burned down 200 schools, and terrorized parents into shutting down another 400. Those 600 schools meant 130,000 students were no longer able to attend classes. Several million parents in the region demanded that the government do something. Officials pointed out that the government, and foreign aid agencies, were able to build thousands of schools, but did not have the manpower to guard them. In response, last Fall, parents pressured their village and tribal leaders into organizing a guard force for the schools. This was a risky business. Most villages have fewer weapons (often mainly bolt action rifles, pistols and shotguns), to use against up to a hundred heavily armed (with AK-47s and RPGs) Taliban. But this action across the region was sending a message to the Taliban; attack our schools and you'll have to fight the parents. While many of the tribes in the region contain many pro-Taliban members, the majority of the people wanted to protect their schools. The Taliban responded in two ways. First, they said they would spend several million dollars to build dozens of new, Taliban approved (mainly religious subjects) schools, most of them in villages where schools had been burned down. Second, the Taliban campaign against the schools withered. The number of schools attacked each month declined by 90 percent. But the after effects of this remain to be seen. For the moment, the Taliban are much less tolerated in many parts of southern Afghanistan. But the fathers of children are not happy about spending several nights a month taking their turn guarding an empty, and usually unheated, school house. However, the police are being promised more cooperation (that is, information about any Taliban activity in the neighborhood), when Spring, and Taliban gunmen, begin roaming the hills again.

 


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