Friday, November 28, 2008

BEATS: AFGHANISTAN

Robert Fisk, Independent, UK - The collapse of Afghanistan is closer than the world believes. Kandahar is in Taliban hands - all but a square mile at the centre of the city - and the first Taliban checkpoints are scarcely 15 miles from Kabul. Hamid Karzai's deeply corrupted government is almost as powerless as the Iraqi cabinet in Baghdad's "Green Zone"; lorry drivers in the country now carry business permits issued by the Taliban which operate their own courts in remote areas of the country.

The Red Cross has already warned that humanitarian operations are being drastically curtailed in ever larger areas of Afghanistan; more than 4,000 people, at least a third of them civilians, have been killed in the past 11 months, along with scores of NATO troops and about 30 aid workers. Both the Taliban and Mr Karzai's government are executing their prisoners in ever greater numbers. . .

"Nobody I know wants to see the Taliban back in power," a Kabul business executive says - anonymity is now as much demanded as it was before 2001 - "but people hate the government and the parliament which doesn't care about their security. The government is useless. With so many internally displaced refugees pouring into Kabul from the countryside, there's mass unemployment - but of course, there are no statistics. . .

Afghans working for charitable organisations and for the UN are telling their employers that they are coming under increasing pressure to give information to the Taliban and provide them with safe houses. In the countryside, farmers live in fear of both sides in the war. A very senior NGO official in Kabul - again, anonymity was requested - says both the Taliban and the police regularly threaten villagers. "A Taliban group will arrive at a village headman's door at night - maybe 15 or 16 of them - and say they need food and shelter. And the headman tells the villagers to give them food and let them stay at the mosque. Then the police or army arrive in the day and accuse the villagers of colluding with the Taliban, detain innocent men and threaten to withhold humanitarian aid. Then there's the danger the village will be air-raided by the Americans."

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