Afghan forces joiningTaliban
- Defections hit Afghan forces
Afghan security forces are tasked with battling a resurgent Taliban
After fighting the Taliban for the past seven years, many working for
the Afghan security forces are now switching sides.
Sulieman Ameri and his 16 men were until a month ago serving the
Afghan government as police patrolling the border with Iran.
Now they answer to the Taliban and their goal is to drive all foreign
troops out of Afghanistan.
Ameri, now a Taliban commander, told Al Jazeera that he joined the
Taliban because of what he called anti-Muslim behaviour by
"I have seen everything with my own eyes, I have seen prostitution, I
have seen them drinking alcohol. We are Muslim and therefore jihad is
our obligation," Ameri said in the mountains south of Herat.
"Our soil is occupied by Americans and I want them to leave this
country. That is my only goal," he added.
Brigadier-General Richard Blanchette, a spokesman for the Nato-led
International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) in Afghanistan, said
Isaf troops were "behaving in the most respectful way".
"I have no specific information about any activity that would have
happened in Herat but I know for sure that the Taliban and other
insurgents are conducting a propaganda campaign against us. And I can
confirm to you that our troops are behaving in the most respectful
way," he told Al Jazeera.
The UN has warned that the Taliban's influence is spreading [EPA]
"Anytime that I would hear that somebody is joining the insurgency I
think it is bad news because we know the Taliban are offering nothing
for the future of this country," he said.
But Ameri and his men are not the only renegade government forces
some 70 police and soldiers have switched allegiances across the
western region in the past two months.
Al Jazeera's Dan Nolan, reporting from Afghanistan, said "low wages
for a dangerous jobs" did not seem to be the reason behind the
Instead, they deserted for ideological reasons, Nolan explained.
"When Russia came it was only one country, today we have 24 foreign
infidel countries on our soil. All our men and women should come and
join the jihad," Fida Mohammad, a new Taliban recruit, told Al
But though they reject the "infidels", they are not averse to
receiving weapons or military training from them.
The recruits - so fresh that many have not yet grown their beards,
while some are still smoking, a practice banned by the Taliban -
carry weapons provided by the Afghan government and certificates for
weapons training by the US.
Abdul Rahim, another new recruit, said he received training from
American military contractor Blackwater for 45 days.
"I can use the training to save my life in these mountains and I can
also use it to fight them," he said.
The switch in allegiances comes as the UN special envoy to
Afghanistan warned on Tuesday that the Taliban's influence continues
to spread beyond traditional strongholds to provinces around the
Kai Eide also told the UN Security Council that Taliban attacks - at
a six-year high would probably grow in the coming weeks instead of
easing, as they have in previous winters.
"We should be prepared for a situation where the insurgency will not
experience the same winter lull, the same reduction in hostilities we
have experienced in past winters," he said.
Eide added that attacks against humanitarian workers had also
Abdul Hakim Ashir, a spokesman for the Afghan interior ministry,
denied that a high number of police officers had defected.
"I strongly refuse that 70 people [have defected to the Taliban]
because this year we lost only 10 officers who maybe joined the
"We have increased the number of officers from 61,000 to 82,000 this
year. The police recruitment process is going very well. Those from
the young generation especially are joining the police forces.
"Over the last month, we have graduated 2,000 non-commissioned
officers. That means there has been an increase and not a decrease in
the police force."
THE CHALLENGES FACING THE NEXT US PRESIDENTIAL ADMINISTRATION
by Aunohita Mojumdar
During the US presidential campaign, both candidates have endorsed
the idea of deploying more troops to Afghanistan to help the
embattled country surmount its present stabilization challenges.
While the candidates may think they are being generous with this
offer, they would do well to take a hard look at the nature and
details of the deployment, as well as how it would dovetail with a
larger Afghan strategy that includes humanitarian relief,
reconstruction programs and civil society development. In Afghanistan
there is no public demand for more troops, but rather growing
scrutiny of military conduct. Indeed, an increasing number of Afghans
seems to want the Afghan government to exert greater control over
foreign troops in the country. Such a desire, of course, is not
likely to be met. But it reflects building resentment among Afghans.
A major cause for the shifting attitudes is civilian casualties
resulting from ongoing military operations. Foreign forces appear to
be increasingly resorting to air strikes, resulting in a growing
number of civilian deaths and injuries. Of the 1,500 civilian killed
in 2007, the UN estimates that 629 were killed by pro-government
elements, while 700 were attributed to anti-government elements. (The
remainder could not be attributed conclusively to either side). Human
Rights Watch noted in a September report that the number of civilian
deaths "nearly tripled from 2006 to 2007, with recent deadly
airstrikes exacerbating the problem and fuelling a public backlash."
Most airstrike casualties were connected to missions carried out
under the auspices of Operation Enduring Freedom -- the codename for
the campaign carried out by US-led coalition forces -- rather than
the NATO-led International Security and Assistance Force, the rights
The Afghan parliament and government have echoed increasing public
anger at civilian deaths. The anger has been exacerbated by the
seeming reluctance of US forces to grapple with the issue.
Seven years into the reconstruction of the country, Afghans are less
tolerant of the presence of the international community and less
forgiving about the inefficiencies of aid delivery. Despite figures
of double-digit growth, the percentage of the population living below
the poverty line is rising. So is food insecurity. While
internationals may lament the corruption in Afghanistan, a survey by
Integrity Watch Afghanistan showed that 92 percent of Afghans would
like international aid to be funnelled through their own government,
warts and all.
To many Afghans it is inconceivable that the petty corruption of
local officials is considered a greater crime than the hundreds of
thousands of dollars paid in salary and expenses to expatriates --
not all of whom demonstrate a commensurate skill and capacity -- or
when millions of dollars are absorbed by the sub-contracting process.
Afghans are growing increasingly disenchanted with their perceived
second-class status in their own country. Afghans are paid a fraction
of the salaries given to international experts, and it is
disgruntling for well-educated locals to see foreign aid workers
frequenting restaurants and shops that they themselves cannot afford.
The Taliban have skilfully exploited this rising discontent as a
force multiplier in their favor, a fact documented effectively by the
International Crisis Group in its July report on Taliban propaganda.
As Afghanistan prepares for its own election cycle -- presidential
elections are scheduled for 2009, with parliamentary elections to
follow in 2010 -- it is likely that this resentment will become a
rallying point for politicians and administrators alike. Anti-
foreigner jingoism stands to increase in the coming months, and
politicians will likely pander to the conservative sensibilities of
many Afghans. There have been growing indications of this from
President Hamid Karzai's administration. But the international
community's response remains unclear. Increasing talk of "Afghan-led"
projects or "Afghan culture" suggest that many members of the Western
coalition, tiring of the long slog, are willing to abandon quietly
their limited support to basic human rights and rule of law issues.
Indeed, the last few years have seen increasing compromises on issues
related to women's rights, human rights and rule of law, while the
international community pursues the chimera of "stability first."
The United States needs to undertake a hard-headed reassessment of
the political realities in Afghanistan and address local concerns.
Otherwise the incoming administration may find that its changes in
strategy may be quickly overtaken by shifting realities on the
Editor's Note: Aunohita Mojumdar is an Indian freelance journalist
based in Kabul. She has reported on the South Asian region for the
past 18 years.
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