Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

How One Afghan Village Fended off a Taliban Advance

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

How One Afghan Village Fended off a Taliban Advance

Article excerpt

Locals who beat back a Taliban advance Saturday now say they fear Taliban retribution and potentially losing control of the area without Afghan government assistance.

As the Taliban presence grows throughout Northern Afghanistan, locals in a small village there have given government security forces hope after they forcibly ousted the Islamic militant group from their area on Saturday.

A day later, however, the village remains in a precarious position. Locals say they fear Taliban retribution and potentially losing control of the area without government assistance. Whether other villages in the area follow suit will likely depend on the government's response and the fate of the village after standing up to the Taliban.

"People in the village are happy that they fought against the Taliban," says Abdul Hakim Khan, the leader of the villagers who fought the Taliban in the Baghlan Province's Laiqa Desert. "But now people are worried that if no one takes care of them there will be a bigger problem."

Taliban looking to expand in the north

As the NATO-led military effort focuses intensely on Afghanistan's south and the east, with 42 of its 46 combat battalions in those regions, insurgents have been shifting their activities to the north where they face far less resistance.

Outside of Pashtun areas, the Taliban has often struggled to gain the support of other ethnic groups, and the north is predominately made up of Uzbeks, Tajiks, and Hazaras with pockets of Pashtuns. Still, over the course of the past year, the Taliban has managed to recruit a number of disaffected Pashtuns in these areas who say they have suffered discrimination and harassment since the fall of the Taliban in 2001.

The Laiqa Desert was a logical area for the Taliban to seek support in Baghlan, as it is one of the province's Pashtun pockets. Most of the residents come from families who moved to the area from the south's Farah Province almost 90 years ago, and, generations later, they still keep ties with relatives in the south. …

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