Afghanistan: April 30, 2005


A number of relatively high ranking former Taliban -- including at least one former provincial governor and several former generals -- have accepted the government's amnesty offers. In similar cases in which senior Taliban personnel have come over to the new government, these people may find themselves integrated into the new administration, and even being given responsible posts. Historically, this has been one of the best ways to finish off a discredited regime, and it seems to be working again.

The arrest, in the United States, of Afghan drug lord Haji Bashir Noorzia, may have an important impact on the remnants of the Taliban terrorism in Afghanistan. Noorzia was a staunch supporter of the Taliban, and apparently used Islamist networks to move his drugs, not only in Afghanistan and Central and South Asia, but also into the Middle East, Europe, and even the U.S. This not only enriched Noorzia apparently to the tune of about $50 million but also helped finance the Taliban and other Islamist groups. Noorzias fall may, however, have some undesired side-effects; with him gone, his tribal and criminal connections in Afghanistan will probably adhere more closely to the Taliban. By the way, despite his drug dealing, Noorzia seems to have eminently correct religious credentials; the Haji before his name is the title of respect given to Moslems who make the pilgrimage to Mecca.. 

Of the country's 34 provinces, Kandahar is the least effectively controlled by the government. Gul Aghan Sharzai, the former warlord, now governor, of the province still wields a great deal of influence through his tribal connections, though some of the tribes are wary of him as well as of president Karzai. Since the province, which borders Pakistan, is the hideout of the largest group of Taliban holdouts, it's likely to remain unsettled for a while yet. One consequence of the complex political situation in the province is that it is the only one in Afghanistan where poppy production has increased over the past couple of years.


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