Recent reports from Logar and Badakhshan show that the Taliban have not changed their views towards Afghans and Afghan society. In fact, what I learned recently only verifies the Taliban are getting even more brutal and violent in their actions. How the world reacts now to force the Taliban to seek a diplomatic solution will have historical ramifications. Afghans do not want to live under another Taliban regime that denies human rights on a mass scale, and a failure to end Taliban aggression will cause a new refugee crisis and an internally displaced persons (IDP) catastrophe inside Afghanistan.
Taliban Mafia Operations
The Taliban send messages out to district leaders as they approach telling the citizens that the Taliban has changed and that they should be welcomed in peace. Upon arrival, the Taliban quickly show the people that they have not changed at all. The Taliban instantly demand that Afghans provide food for the fighters. Next, they demand that all families bring a rifle to the Taliban commander and if they cannot, pay them money. By nightfall the Taliban are showing up at homes with groups of 10 fighters and demanding that families let them sleep in their homes and feed them as guests. If families refuse to house and feed the fighters, they are told they will be killed.
During the day, the new Taliban rules are quickly enforced. Boys and girls are stopped from going to school. Women are forced to have a male family companion at all times or risk a brutal public beating. Taliban allow shops to stay open if the owners pay them protection money. Families are also asked to pay a protection fee.
The Taliban stopped one car in Logar that was playing music and when the driver apologized, the fighters pulled out their Taliban Fatwa card to show him the punishment for playing music in a car—it was the destruction of the vehicle. Also, according to the Taliban rulebook, anyone who is serving in the ANDSF or supporting them can be killed. Taliban are warning citizens that if anyone talks about the peace process they will be killed. It is absolutely clear by these actions that the Taliban do not seek or believe in the concept of peace.
Fear and Confusion
The Taliban forces that arrive in the rural districts are often known to the citizens. The fighters are “local” forces in that sense, but the commanders are increasingly from Pakistan or other nations. The citizens are calling them Arab Taliban, and they say they are extremely cruel and brutal towards Afghans. A Taliban tactic is to starve the rural citizens by not allowing food and beverages from central markets to flow into rural areas, while demanding the citizens feed the Taliban fighters their remaining food.
Life is still going on, but the Taliban are using fear to intimidate the unhappy citizens into following their way of life. Citizens are trying their best not to anger the Taliban gunmen. The people fear a return of the 2001 level of Taliban control of their lives. People are worried about losing internet and electricity and their connection to the outside world as well.
Citizens are also confused by the military strategy. They understand that smaller outposts need to fall-back to the provincial centers so they aren’t overwhelmed in an attack, but it leaves the people at the mercy of those Pakistani (or Arab) Taliban commanders. As usual, the cruelty of the Taliban tactics means the citizens are stuck in the crossfire as the Taliban continue to attack rural people in hopes of demoralizing the Afghan people. The citizens are reporting that the ANDSF are killing Taliban in very large numbers across the districts, and it gives them hope that the Taliban may seek a peaceful solution, but those heavy Taliban casualties may also spur their “Pakistani” or “Arab” commanders to try to destroy even more districts as fast as they can to keep their fighter’s morale up. The ANDSF and Islamic Republic of Afghanistan will need to hold key ground during this rapid series of attacks, and more clearly explain their strategy to the people to decrease the suffering of Afghans.