Caught as they are in the middle of the conflict between the Taliban and international forces, life has become difficult for the residents of southern Afghanistan, who don't know to whom they should turn for protection. The government is too weak, NATO is often fighting primarily to preserve its own security and the Taliban is infiltrating the villages.
Five months ago, the British signed a regional truce after heavy fighting and many losses. Under the terms of the agreement, tribal elders agreed to keep the Taliban out of the region. But when the British withdrew, the agreement fell apart and, by early February, the Taliban were back in control.
The problem is that we are trying to win the "hearts and minds" and the Taliban thugs are enforcing discipline.
The main objective of the new NATO offensive is to secure the Sangin Valley and the Kajaki dam in northern Helmand Province. If the plan succeeds, they hope to repair a major power plant that could supply electricity to almost 2 million Afghans. The NATO-led ISAF troops, and even the Americans, have now realized that they can only win the "hearts and minds" of their Afghan allies by significantly improving their standard of living.
The Taliban, for its part, is trying to impede technological progress at all costs, knowing full well that its power will dissipate as soon as Afghans see improvements in their lives or be able to find jobs. But if the extremists manage to up the number of civilians killed in battle, the Afghans will be more likely to stand behind the Taliban.
In short, this is far from a holy war and never was here in the permanently ungovernable south. The Taliban has entered into a strategic alliance with the powerful smuggling mafia that operates between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Far from supporting the establishment of a caliphate, the smugglers are only interested in drugs, weapons, women and holding on to power.
Electricity is well and good if you are alive to enjoy it but security must come first and the article reports that, from the Afghani perspective, the prospects for peace aren't looking too good:
Just what the foreign soldiers are good for is difficult for the rural population to tell. They speed through the dusty landscape in their outlandish vehicles, periodically engage the enemy, and then return to their fortified bases. In the strategically important Panjwai district in Kandahar Province, entire villages have been leveled because Taliban fighters were using them for cover.
Poor security is still the Afghans' biggest problem. The police, rarely on hand when they are needed, make convenient targets for the Taliban, interested as they are in intimidating the locals. Miserably trained and poorly paid or not paid at all, Afghanistan's police officers often abuse their power to extort bribes from the very people they are meant to protect. It's a situation that results in many villagers preferring to see the Taliban keep the peace. They say that although the Taliban may not have brought development to the country, it did provide stability. The current government has been able to offer neither..
Does it make sense to pour millions of dollars into a public works system that the "insurgents" can knock out for a few hundred dollars? Does it make sense to expect cooperation from a people who know that you're not going to stay and protect them? No.
So why are we trying to buy victory? We don't have the manpower so we're throwing away money by the shipload thinking that will do the trick and somehow win a war. What a waste of money and lives. We may think we live in a modern era, but the enemy doesn't live or fight by our rules and they can get a lot more bang for their buck. There's no substitute for the old fashioned goal of total victory and if we can't achieve total dominance, we need to get out because ultimately the other side will prevail. Damn the political arguments about milestones and goals because all we're going to see are signposts pointing the way to hell and defeat while the other side enjoys the electricity we provided them on our way out.sidebar: Mujahideen Consider American Elections a Sign of U.S. Defeat in Iraq