Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Taliban Makes Itself Popular By Killing NATO-Backed Crooks

I'm sure there will be paeans of praise for the now late mayor of Kandahar, particularly in the North American median. The Globe & Mail, for instance, suggests that Mayor Ghulam Haidar Hamidi was a reformer who was trying to root out corruption. However, it seems that local Afghans didn't feel the same, and saw him as someone who was aiding the bulldozing of local homes built without permission of the corrupt, gangster ridden authorities. As the article in the Guardian notes:

At the time of his assassination Hamidi's office was surrounded by around 100 protesters, furious at the municipality's destruction of houses built illegally on government land in recent days in the Loy Wala area of Kandahar.
One protester, Hajji Lal Mohammad, said the mayor had sparked outrage in the community where the houses were destroyed, apparently killing two children.
"They destroyed 200 houses and two children were killed," he said. "When I saw the bulldozers I also wanted to kill the mayor."

Hamidi was mooted as a possible replacement for President Karzai's half-brother - a notorious gangster and drug dealer himself - and this will add to the sense of a power vacuum in the volatile south. The Taliban may be authoritarian and deeply conservative but they are playing it smarter and smarter as this unwinnable war continues into its second decade. They have targeted the corrupt figures backed by the American puppet regime who are widely unpopular amongst the local, poverty-ridden population. This has helped them to grow in strength and numbers, while the Karzai regime has grown more despised even as his extended family grows wealthy from the NATO war economy. They seem to have also wised up to employing military tactics that reduce civilian casualties while making the biggest impact on local power brokers.

The death of Hamidi will raise further concerns about whether military gains by the US military in the Kandahar region, particularly in districts adjoining the city, will be undermined by the remorseless killing of top public figures.
The death comes weeks after the killing in their homes of two powerful politicians in the south: Ahmed Wali Karzai and Jan Mohammad Khan, an ally of the Karzai family and a key figure in neighbouring Uruzgan province. In April, Kandahar's police chief was killed by a suicide bomber who entered police headquarters.
A recent UN report said "targeted killings" had increased in the first half of 2011 from an already high level. Assassination attempts had caused 43 injuries and 190 deaths – a 5% increase on the same period in 2010.
"Every death piles on top of the other and leads to a sense of demoralisation, that nobody is safe," said Martine van Bijlert, co-director of the Afghanistan Analysts Network.

This latest assassination will only deepen the sense that America and NATO are heading on an accelerated path towards defeat. Therein lies the only hope for Afghanistan.

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