Bring back the Taliban?

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Fri Dec 28 07:59:35 MST 2001

NY Times, December 28, 2001

Afghan Warlords and Bandits Are Back in Business

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, Dec. 27 — Abdul Aziz found himself driving an 
18-passenger bus one recent afternoon on southern Afghanistan's main 
highway, on a particular stretch that is the no man's land between 
the fiefs of two rival warlords.

Suddenly, five men in a Toyota Landcruiser, armed with Kalashnikovs 
and rocket-propelled grenades, began chasing the bus and firing. One 
bullet fatally struck a passenger in the back of the head, as Mr. 
Aziz kept driving and eventually eluded the gunmen.

In Dilaram, a town 150 miles west of here in the bailiwick of the 
Herat-based warlord Ismail Khan, Mr. Aziz reported the attack to the 
local authorities.

"But they told me it was not their responsibility to secure the road 
and told me to go to Gul Agha," Mr. Aziz, 30, recalled, mentioning 
Gul Agha Shirzai, the warlord based here in Kandahar.

As warlords have carved out chunks of Afghanistan after the fall of 
the Taliban, the lawlessness that gave rise to the strict Islamic 
movement in the mid-1990's has begun to spread, once again, across 
this country. The United States-led military campaign that began on 
Oct. 7 has succeeded in eradicating most of the Taliban and Al Qaeda 
from Afghanistan, but it has returned to power nearly all of the same 
warlords who had misruled the country in the days before the Taliban.

The warlords have all pledged loyalty to the interim government in 
Kabul. But the government is dominated by ethnic Tajiks from one 
division of the Northern Alliance. It is headed by the one fresh face 
in an old roster, Hamid Karzai, a previously little- known figure 
nationally who controls no real army of his own and no territory, but 
was handpicked by the United States.

As power has shifted back to the regional warlords away from Kabul, 
the absence of a strong central authority has brought back anarchy to 
southern Afghanistan. Bus drivers from Kandahar said soldiers at 
checkpoints, allied with bandits, were robbing and killing travelers. 
Many buses were still unaccounted for, they said.

One particular stretch of road, into the southwestern province of 
Nimruz, has become so dangerous that bus drivers at the station were 
now refusing to go there.

"The situation is worse than it was before the Taliban came to 
power," said Muhammad Zahir, 38, a ticket collector for the 
Kandahar-Herat line. "Before they were taking cars and money. But now 
they are also killing people."


Louis Proyect, lnp3 at on 12/28/2001

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