The real threats in Kabul and throughout Afghanistan are corruption and good old-fashioned crime, albeit at a high level in both categories. It is crime and corruption (rampant in the police) that are hurting reconstruction efforts. The Taliban and Al Qaeda are not a threat; they are despised and have no popular support. What support they may generate is through fear and intimidation in those areas where security is lacking. Given a choice and guarantee of security, the people reject the Taliban.
The article below was written by a woman who has been living here in Kabul for the last three years with her family. Like me, her take is that the media are reporting from a Kabul in a parallel universe. I post her comments here in their entirety.
The real situation in Kabul
United Press International
By Marilyn Angelucci, Kabul
Kabul — I have been living in Kabul for the past three years, and the news reports still never cease to amaze me. This week, the International Council on Security and Development (ICOS) reported that the Taliban have control of almost 75% of Afghanistan and that they will soon walk through the door of Kabul.
According to my experience living here with my family, I can’t believe that the country they are describing is the same country that I live in. According to reports by NATO, the Afghan government and a great number of our Afghan friends, I hear a different story.
The Taliban are losing any support they may have had in the past. A few months ago, they attacked a bus of Afghans headed for Iran to seek work. The travelers were from Laghman, and the attack happened in southern Afghanistan. The Taliban beheaded most of the travelers, sparing a few of the younger ones. They claimed that those executed were Afghan military.
The local people of Laghman were so angered by the attack that they united against the Taliban. According to the words of one of the survivors, local leaders have declared a “war” against any Taliban in their area. They have stated that if there are any Taliban or Taliban supporters found in their area, they will execute them and burn their homes. This was declared by the leaders of 15 districts in the province of Laghman, an ethnically Pashtun area.
The local people are fed up with the Taliban's tactics. Even those that may have supported the Taliban in the past have become disgusted by the killing and torturing of innocent civilians. They have lost hope that the Taliban can bring about anything better than what the Karzai government can.
It’s true that security is worse than last year, while the Taliban claim that they are responsible for the attacks. But this is not the case. Most of the kidnappings and criminal activities are done by local gangsters that are taking advantage of the corruption of the police and the Ministry of the Interior.
Take the case of Gail Williams, a British national killed last month on the streets of western Kabul. According to news reports, the Taliban were responsible and claimed that her NGO was converting Muslims to Christianity, and that the killing was therefore a warning. The NGO denies this claim.
One local who witnessed the attack said men on a motorcycle first tried to steal Williams' pocketbook and, when she fought off the attack, they shot her first in the legs, then in the head and left her to die. This is not a tactic of the Taliban. This is the work of local criminals taking advantage of the poor policing seen all over Kabul. Some even claim that these criminal acts are the work of the local police themselves, but this has not been proven at this point.
So, corruption is high. Not only are the Taliban losing support, but so is Karzai. People are ready for a new government and are looking for someone who can get a grip on Afghanistan’s security and development issues.
So much has been done toward development by the international community, and this can be seen everywhere. But the leadership is still weak, and this leads to many other concerns. We are all hoping, with the additional troops coming in January and in the summer, that security can improve and the presidential elections can take place as planned.