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by Zia Intezar

Taliban Have Control Of Southern Afghanistan, Say Reports

(IPS) KABUL -- Anxiety has replaced the hope of a new beginning in Afghanistan's turbulent history two years after Hamid Karzai was made president of the war-torn country with the support of a U.S.-led coalition.

An upsurge in armed attacks and bombings that has spread from the restive southern provinces -- where remnants of the Taliban, the previous rulers, have regrouped with deadly results -- to the capitol city Kabul, have shaken people's confidence in the government's ability to provide essential security.

A bomb exploded on Oct. 10 in a Kabul neighborhood during the early morning rush hour, a day after the second anniversary of Karzai's smooth elevation to full-fledged president, sending widening ripples of fear among an anxious populace.

The target of the attack was a police bus. No one was killed, and most of the injured escaped with minor wounds. A Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for the low-intensity bomb that was strapped to a bicycle and set off by remote control.

"The security situation is worrying," said a junior official in the Education Ministry who said she returned to Afghanistan with much hope three years ago. "Now with bombs going off every other day in Kabul, there's no knowing what will happen."

Daily commuters are talking of finding alternative routes, and offices are considering various possibilities, like changing schedules so that employees who are bused to work can avoid the traffic jams that have become common on Kabul's crowded roads.

"Avoid driving behind United Nations or police vehicles, because together with the U.S. military convoys, they have been the target of bombings in Kabul so far," Aziz Hakimi, executive editor of the The Killid Group, an independent media organization that owns two magazines and a radio station, told an editorial meeting this week.

Few people have faith in either Karzai's or the combined U.S. or North Atlantic Treaty Organization's (NATO) impressive firepower that has rolled into Afghanistan to crush the Taliban-led opposition forces on the ground.

"A weak center, and interference on our borders are the reasons for the escalating violence. The government doesn't have a strategy, even on the serious drug trafficking problem. Neither is there coordination with the coalition forces," said an instructor at Kabul University who gave his name as Stankoay.

There are murmurs of disaffection even in Parliament, where internal security was a subject of discussion this week. A parliamentarian from Kabul, identified as Joinda, told Killid Radio later: "The government gets weaker day by day."

According to another lawmaker, Yazdan Panst, one of 68 women in the 249-member Afghan National Assembly, government employees are to blame for the widespread disillusionment.

"Government staff are busy making use of their positions. They don't think about the people. So many promises are made, but it is never implemented," she said in an interview with the 24-hour FM channel in Dari and Pashto, the two main languages spoken in the country.

Karzai, hand-picked by Washington, was thrust on the national stage to knit together Afghanistan's warring tribes into a democratic nation after the U.S. bombed the Taliban out of Kabul in December 2001, and set up an interim government.

Less than three years later, the suave, former advisor to U.S. oil giant UNOCAL on the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan pipeline proposal, had become the country's first elected president.

But a popular mandate has not been enough for his government to confront the innumerable problems. Beyond Kabul, he has not been able to wrest control of events from the country's powerful ethnic warlords. Karzai is the chief of a small Pashtun tribe called Popolzai in the Kandahar province, the center of growing resistance to his government and the foreign troops charged with propping it up.

Restoring peace, disarming the warlords, rebuilding the national army and destroyed infrastructure, rooting out corruption, and reviving the economy were some of the president's promises. But he has not been able to keep his word on any of the counts -- to the disappointment of many ordinary Afghanis who had hoped to see a new future.

President Karzai's new strategy to end the armed insurrection in the southern provinces by the Taliban, which was unveiled in Washington at a meeting last month with U.S. President George W. Bush and his Pakistani counterpart Parvez Musharraf, has received lukewarm support amongst political observers in Kabul.

Skeptics warn that the proposed joint jirgas (assemblies) of tribal elders living in the border areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan in order to wean them away from the influence of the Taliban and its supporters may end up being hijacked by their representatives.

Reports from Peshawar indicate that the truce announced in North Waziristan Agency by Musharraf on Sept. 5 has only further strengthened the hands of the Pakistan Taliban at the expense of tribal elders and political administration.

Released under agreement with The Killid Group. With reporting contributed by IPS correspondent Ann Ninan

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Albion Monitor   October 11, 2006   (

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