Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Revolution Will Not Be Motorcycled

Finally, Afghanistan makes some front pages, or at least one, as noted by’s TP. NYT has a summary article on the annual the Taliban spring offensive, which every reader here is familiar with now. The article paints a good picture of how this offensive is a bit different than previous ones. This one not just consisting of rogue or guerilla attacks, but rather offensives for control of areas of the country.

TP also mentions an older news item, the ban on motorcycles in Ghazni, as they are often a Taliban mode of transportation. (The preceding link's article links to an IWPR article.) The news on that ban had made its rounds here after it was issued, one article, if I recall correctly, even including a quote extolling a certain powerful Mullah’s ability to ride 2-up and hit his targets w/ an RPG. But, the subsequent ban by the Taliban on all motor vehicles in the same area and the effectiveness of that ban is news to me. Though that article that discusses it is a few days old, I haven’t seen anything referencing it (haven’t looked hard though). The effectiveness of that ban, and the quotes are quite foreboding.

A few rockets and kidnappings are one thing, and even an increase in their frequency, though indicating a rising threat, wasn’t terribly concerning to me, given a lot of the current political and military context. The Taliban being able to shut down a whole region of the country, indicating their effective control of the area, is quite a different matter. The former only requires a safe house here and there or a couple of caves to duck into. Keeping all traffic at bay shows that the Taliban are the de facto authority in that area. Whether true or not, meaning whether or not they have the means and ability to be the de facto authority in the region, it doesn’t matter, as the locals seem to believe it.

That belief is the primary concern for me. I recall often reading coverage after the Taliban was ousted where the sentiment often expressed was to the effect of “we didn’t want them, but what could we do?”—in other words, a sentiment expressing a belief in the de facto authority of the Taliban—a sentiment of hopelessness. I hope it’s too soon for hopelessness. And of course, there is the actual possibility and fact that support for the Taliban is rising again.

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