Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Is the Taliban Wearing out Its Welcome in Afghanistan?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Is the Taliban Wearing out Its Welcome in Afghanistan?

Article excerpt

Tuesday marked the most violent day in Afghanistan this year, while Afghans are starting to show that they're tired of violence and fed up with the Taliban.

After US Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales allegedly walked off a US base in Kandahar last March and went house to house, killing a total of 17 Afghan civilians, many worried that the Taliban would capitalize on the incident and the long restive province would revert to violence.

Yet more than five months later, violence in Kandahar remains at record lows. Compared with the same time last year, the Kandahar governors office reports that insurgent attacks and activity are down 75 percent.

Marking a new development, not only did the Taliban fail to use the shooting spree as a propaganda tool to renew their momentum, but a growing number of residents say theyve grown frustrated with the group and increasingly intolerant of its activities.

The bad behavior of the Taliban with the local people when they use their fields, houses, mosques, and streets as their battlefield, when they put landmines in roads and in their fields has shifted the sympathy of the people toward the government. People are very unhappy with the Taliban about these issues, says Haji Fazel Mohammad, the district governor of Panjwayi, where the Bales incident occurred.

Throughout Afghanistan, many locals are losing whatever sympathy they may have once had for the Taliban. In Ghazni Province in eastern Afghanistan, a group of locals in Andar district rose up against the extremist group after it shut down a majority of schools in the area.

The uprising, which began in May, failed to spread beyond Andar and there are a number of indications that local politics and power struggles may have had just as much, if not more, to do with the uprising than frustration with the Taliban. Most evidence points to a conflict between Afghanistans Hezeb-e Islami, a more moderate Islamic group, and the Taliban that has reportedly been taking place in Wardak and Ghazni for some time now.

Still, as US and NATO forces work to hand over security responsibilities to their Afghan counterparts ahead of the 2014 deadline to end their combat operations, there is hope that evaporating support for the Taliban may lay the foundation for long- term stability in Afghanistan.

Much like what happened in Iraq where there was a turning point after Al Qaeda in Iraq had killed so many of the people and done so many beheadings and intimidated so many, the people finally got tired of it and stood up and fought back. That was the turning point in Iraq. The same type of turning point can occur and will occur here, says US Army Lt. Col. Praxitelis Nick Vamvakias, commander of the 2-504 Parachute Infantry Regiment in Ghazni Province.

Taliban have got the message

Unlike in Iraq, locals say the Taliban received the message after the uprising in Ghaznis Andar district and backed off from some of its more aggressive behavior.

The situation is becoming normal again after the uprising. There are no Taliban in the area where the uprising happened. …

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