In Afghanistan, Taliban Rise Where Kabul Falters

Article excerpt

With tough tactics and promises of security, it aims to position itself as a stronger brand of government.

Rahmatullah Sorkhrodi looks out of his TV repair shop through the few shards of glass left hanging in the window frame. Little more than month ago, a bomb detonated in a music and video store across the street, blowing out windows in his and other surrounding stores.

The Taliban prohibit music and videos, and the shop near Mr. Sorkhrodi is just one of several that have been attacked recently in Jalalabad.

For Sorkhrodi, who can't afford to fix the window, it's a reminder of what many people fear is the growing influence of the Taliban here. "Now everyone is scared that it is getting worse. Maybe they will use more suicide attacks."

While reported talks between the Afghan government and members of the Taliban have grabbed headlines, there are numerous indications throughout Afghanistan that the Taliban are doing anything but hanging up their guns.

Indeed, as the Afghan government suffers under its reputation for corruption, the Taliban appear to be using that to garner increasing support for their movement. Consequently, regions like Nangarhar Province that have traditionally had a limited Taliban presence may be more at risk.

"Generally the current government cannot solve all the problems in Nangarhar, because the problems don't just belong to this province," says Muhammad Hassan Haqyar, a political analyst based in Kabul. Because of that, he says, it appears the Taliban are trying to take advantage of that and work to establish themselves as a legitimate governing body.

The Taliban are conducting civil court proceedings in areas outside government control. This October in the restive Wardak Province, for example, Taliban officials publicly executed a man accused of murder. In Kapisa Province, north of Kabul, they've recently won favor by putting a cap on dowries men must pay to get married, which can reach up to $20,000, a daunting fee for most Afghans.

It is amid this backdrop that Nangarhar Province has begun to see a spike in Taliban activity. As the owner of one of the few remaining music and video shops in Jalalabad, Watan Pashaie should be opposed to the Taliban for business reasons, but under the right conditions he says he'd support them.

"There is fraud and corruption inside the government. If you don't pay the police, they won't protect you," he says. "We hope that one day the government will be strong enough, but if not, we will join with the Taliban."

The Taliban have increased their efforts - largely seen by experts as propaganda - to present themselves as an effective alternative to the government and as more open-minded than many Afghans remember. …