“The Next Test for Afghanistan?”
The Washington Post, February 13, 2015, p.A1
“The Taliban in this northern province allows girls to attend school. It doesn’t execute soldiers or police. Its fighters are not Pashtun, the main ethnic group that bred and fueled the insurgency. Some members are even former mujahideen, or freedom fighters, who once despised the Taliban and fought against its uprising. … When the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, from 1996 to 2001, this was the only province it was never able to control. Now, the insurgency is making inroads here and in other parts of the north, outside its strongholds in the south and east. The Taliban in Badakhshan has gained strength precisely because it is different from the core insurgency. Its fighters are using their ethnic and tribal ties to gain recruits and popular support, while their knowledge of the landscape helps them outmaneuver Afghan security forces and control lucrative sources of funding. … Many fighters, like Ahmedi, were lured by the militants’ promise of salaries and food. Others are escaping the law or disputes with local officials. They also include disgruntled former mujahideen fighters who found no place within the government or the security forces. Most were not even born or were children when the Taliban was created. That includes their top commander — Qari Fasihuddin — who is believed to be 27 or 28. And while the Taliban has imposed Islamic law in areas it controls, it has also allowed schooling for girls, satellite television and music — all forbidden under Taliban rule. It gets most of its financing, Ahmedi said, by taxing opium farmers and extorting large sums of money from truck drivers ferrying gems and marble from nearby mines.”
Quickie Analysis: “Taliban” is becoming a catch-all for armed groups that don’t like the Afghan government.