Afghanistan: May 27, 2002


Afghanistan is a poor country and Afghans survive by being quick to size up situations and make the most of opportunities. The Taliban and al Qaeda are two examples. The Taliban was the countryside mentality (religious conservatism and suspicious of any 20th century thinking) taking over the country. This was good for a lot of poor lads from the countryside and the idea of the Taliban running Afghanistan is still popular in the countryside. A lot of those gunmen from the rural villages really do believe those city slickers are blasphemous and deserve to be punished. But, as has often happened in the past, those smart alecks in the cities have more guns or, worse yet, foreigners (usually non-Moslem infidels) with even more powerful weapons. But each village or valley out in the bush has its own foreign policy, and the special forces spend a lot of time finding out who each village is rooting for. Many people in the countryside either are still Taliban, or support the Taliban idea. This in itself would not be such a bad thing except that the Taliban became tight with al Qaeda. The religious conservatism of the Taliban meshed quite well with the religious extremism of al Qaeda. While the two didn't exactly become one, they did become close allies. Out in the countryside, it becomes a matter of life and death for special forces to find out which village or valley is Taliban enough to fight for the idea. Some are, some aren't. It's also become obvious that many villages can be swayed by some good deeds. Medicine, jobs (repairing irrigation works or roads), building a school, or paying a teachers salary all create a positive buzz. But the hard core supporters will defend their beliefs with guns and provide sanctuary for al Qaeda. Finding out who is who, and where to spend the aid money, is a big job, but a job that will decide whether al Qaeda survives in Afghanistan or not. Meanwhile, the pro-Taliban Afghans will play the "who, us?" routine whenever there is a gun battle between local Taliban partisans and allied troops. The pro-Taliban believe that, since God is on their side, eventually they will have an opportunity to take over again. There may yet be another civil war (although probably just local) to decide this issue.


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